Imagine not working since last July. Ok, so for some this may bring a smile to your face. But for others, it would feel like torture. Especially if you truly love your craft, like chefs Paul Minnillo and Christopher DiLisi.
Last summer, Minnillo made the decision to close The Baricelli Inn after 25 years. Shortly after, Minnillo and his executive chef, DiLisi made the easy decision to work together again. This time, opening up a restaurant together that would be quite the opposite of Baricelli, or at least the opposite of the perception of Baricelli held by many.
The only problem – it has taken a bit longer to open doors than first anticipated. And these two are incredibly eager to get back in the kitchen and open the doors to their new eatery, Flour. Lucky for them (and us), the wait isn’t much longer. DiLisi fully expects the 140 seat restaurant (with another 30-ish in outdoor dining) to be open by March 29.
Flour is the type of rustic Italian restaurant that Minnillo has wanted to do for the past 15 years. “I don’t have multiple restaurants,” explains Minnillo. “I have a great amount of respect for Symon and Bruell. They continue to do a great job. But that’s not me. I like to focus on one thing.”
That one thing will be a reasonably priced Italian restaurant. But don’t expect parmesan of any kind. “Italian food is very polarizing in this city,” explains DiLisi. “We’re going to focus on traditional Italian cuisine, but with our spin on it, highlighting real cooking techniques. The dishes will be simple, four to five ingredients.”
And the menu will change often. Not just seasonally, but every couple of weeks. And the dishes will support local as much as possible, including grass-fed beef, pork and chicken.
In researching their restaurant, the chefs went to San Francisco and found themselves at Flour + Water. (side note: this is an absolutely amazing restaurant, one of my favorite San Fran eats. If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend it). That restaurant is the inspiration for our place, adds Minnillo. They also received inspiration from A16 and NYC’s Locanda Verde (run by native Clevelander chef Andrew Carmellini. “They do a great job there,” says Di Lisi. “We want to create a Locanda Verde-type experience here.”
Here’s a sample of some of the dishes off the menu that caught my eye. Nearly everything is made in-house. As DiLisi adds, we now have the room to do some serious cooking.
- Four different types of bruschetta, like spring peas, pecorino and mint
- Pancetta-wrapped chicken meatballs
- Salmon crudo with avocado and grapefruit
- Four to five house made types of salumi
- Beet salad with blood oranges, arugula, fennel and house-made ricotta salada
- Five housemade pastas (plus daily specials): fettuccini carbonara with housemade guanciale; gnugi, with smoked mushrooms, garlic, shallots and tellagio funduta; cauliflower risotto and tagliatelle with ragu Bolognese and ricotta salada.
- At least six entrees, including veal short ribs, half roasted chicken, grouper cheeks, grilled swordfish and tomato braised pork shank.
- And 9”, wood fired, Neapolitan pizzas with a 40 hour rise:
o Fungi, with miatake, shallots and tellagio
o Romana, with crushed tomato, anchovy, black olives and pecorino
o Salsiccia, with sausage, crushed tomato, bufala, grana and oregano
And if you have room left over, there’s an equally impressive dessert list. “We want to have fun with our desserts,” explains DiLisi. “Use American sensibility with Italian traditions. But we will push the envelope a bit.” Though DiLisi is also a trained pastry chef, they just hired a pastry chef who is from Connecticut originally but spent the last two years baking in Israel. She met a boy and now finds herself calling Cleveland home, jokes DiLisi.
And what Italian restaurant is complete without a glass of wine? Or in this case, 30. Flour will boast 30 Italian wines by the glass, all priced between $7 – $12. Of course bottles are also available and from all different regions, but glass pours will just focus on Italy.
Minnillo is clearly excited about the wine offering and shared they had a lot of fun picking out the wines. “Italian whites are amazing, just wait until people try some of the pours we’ll have available, and at these prices,” he adds. Minnillo goes onto explain that all the servers will be thoroughly trained on the wines, as well as the menu. He explains that he wants customers to get to know all the different items, from the bar to the kitchen, and always have a different dining experience during each visit.
The restaurant will boast a big lounge area that will serve as the main focal point, plus a giant wine wall, impressive chef’s table and a main dining area with large windows (that will be sectioned off into two zones allowing for private parties). Though still in the drywall stage, Kristin DiLisi, Chris’ wife and Flour’s GM, explains the décor will be contemporary rustic.
Flour will also be kid-friendly and feature a separate kids’ menu. Flour, located in Moreland Hills at the corner of 91 and Chagrin Blvd, will be open 7 days a week. Lunch will be available shortly after opening, but for now, the chefs plan to just focus on dinner.