A nearby taste for cultura Italiano
There are times when I have a taste for culture. When this happens, I head for a wonderful ristorante italiano owned by Antonino Calandra, Il Bacio.
The small but classic ristorante offers a menu filled with authentic, yet contemporary Italian dishes and desserts. Inside, the sound of Italian music fills your ears, the smell of Italian food fills your nose, and soon, the taste of delicious Italian recipes will fill your mouth.
The low lighting and bold Italian music provides a very mellow, somewhat romantic feel. What it lacks in size, the restaurant makes up for in atmosphere. Upon entering, you are transported from the long winter of Cleveland, Ohio to the streets of Sicily, Italy, where love is in the air. Perhaps that is why the restaurant name translates into “the kiss.” Calandra’s sister, brother-in-law, and nephew just arrived from Palermo, Sicily to help out with the business which just celebrated its one-year anniversary in February.
The small staff talks amongst themselves in Italian, stopping by the table every so often to make sure they provide the best possible service. I went to dinner on a Monday night, and shared the restaurant with just one other couple, dining a few tables over. I was surprised to see Calandra, the restaurant owner, make frequent visits to the table, pour the wine, and talk and laugh with the guests. Even the young nephew, who I estimate had just begun high school, was dressed in uniform, serving water and clearing plates. He even switched on the bathroom light for me. Talk about service!
My dinner date for the evening had over 20 years of extensive experience in the wine business. (Dads make the best dates because they always pay.) He described the wine list as mediocre. The selection of wines by the glass was limited and overpriced. However, the bottle selection was a much higher quality and better priced.
Our visit began with a glass of wine and a couple of appetizers. We chose Montepulciano from the wine list. It was medium-bodied and dry with subtle fruity hints. At $7 a glass though, the quality was not very impressive. The caprese was a nice way to start off the meal. The tomatoes were ripe and slightly sweet and the fresh mozzarella made the perfect pairing. The scallop appetizer was a bit less pleasing, slightly gritty and bland. Our appetizer dishes were collected, leaving us less than satisfied with our visit so far. This all changed, however, with the entrées.
The scaloppine ai shitaki, veal scaloppini covered in a creamy, mushroom sauce, was rich and full of flavor. The meat was tender, and the sauce was a perfect blend of flavors and textures. The pollo alla calabrese was just as delicious. A tender piece of chicken smothered in olive oil, sun dried tomatoes, red wine, and parsley. The addition of capers and olives are an excellent update to the traditional Italian recipe.
Our stomachs were full, but we could not pass up the chance to try the dessert. The waiter stopped by and described a list of tempting choices. We decided to split the tiramisu. Tiramisu was the perfect ending to an enjoyable evening. Calandra himself created the decadent dessert from a traditional family recipe. It’s just as our waiter said, “it’s hard to believe that it’s cheese.” A light dusting of cocoa powder covered the rich, smooth dessert. No words can do it justice.
The ristorante is located just down the hill from the Heights in Little Italy. It is on the last brick road in Cleveland, at 2181 Murray Hill Road. I recommend a trip to Antonino Calandra’s place if you have a taste for culture. Go for the tiramisu, if nothing else.
Hailee Dorflinger is a junior at John Carroll University. She has a double major in English and Communications. Her goal is to become a journalist.