I thought fish fry season was over, but it turns out it was only the churches because of their Good Friday services. Restaurants and alternative venues like Big Met Golf Course were still dishing out fish and other Lenten-friendly foods. Being raised Lutheran the only day we really refrain from eating meat is on Good Friday. I usually forget and remember as I bite into a sandwich or enjoy something with bacon. This year I was good and stayed meatless.
I’ve been hearing about La Vera and its fish fry for a few years now. My old hairdresser grew up there and still spends New Year’s Eve there with her family. Her mother is apparently quite well-known there, being an old Italian family in Cleveland (her aunt runs a small place in Little Italy for primarily locals). One of my friends is a huge fan of the fish fry and goes every year (if not twice in the season), so I spontaneously decided to give it a try on Good Friday.
La Vera has been in business as a catering and event center since 1952. It can accommodate events ranging from 100-720 guests for a variety of junctions including weddings, proms, bar and bat mitzvahs, anniversary parties, luncheons, holiday company parties, sales rallies, seminars, auction and fund raisers. So finding parking was not a problem. They have a spacious parking lot in back.
TLDR: I was underwhelmed, but will give it another shot next year.
I rolled up on La Vera just before 6 PM. I figured it was prime fish fry attendance time and expected a line. To my surprise there was only a back up at the entrance due to someone with a walker and a couple other people chit-chatting and blocking the hallway. I followed the guy in front of me to the dining area. The reservations and credit card customers have their own dining room, because he and his wife were sent on their way to the other room. I paid my $11 to the cashier and was shown to a table. I was surprised, because it had been advertised as $12 per person.
The venue itself was very pretty. Ornate statues, mirrors and chandeliers. My mother’s godmother would have felt right at home. And they had a coat room, which was a nice touch.
After sitting for a second I asked the folks at my table what to do. They directed me to the line where they were dishing out two kinds of fish and sides like macaroni and cheese, whipped potatoes, penne in marinara sauce, and cabbage and noodles. I decided to skip the whipped potatoes and got small portions of everything else. My plate was still full. I grabbed a roll, butter, tartar sauce, a plastic container of cole slaw and napkins and silverware. A woman was ladling out soup at the end of the table, but I could not carry it all. I put my plate down at my table and headed back to get salad and a bowl of soup. I also grabbed some non-alcoholic beverages that were lined up on the bar.
Everything was okay. My favorite thing that night was the cole slaw. I don’t know if the regulars were all at Good Friday services, but everything just tasted bland to me. Both the fried beer battered pollock and baked cod were also kind of dry and nothing to get excited about. I ate the pollock and left some cod on the plate. The cabbage and noodles were full of big pieces of cabbage. I almost salted everything up, but resisted. That soup that everyone raves about? The pasta fagioli? I just thought it was meh. Like watered down tomato soup. To be fair, I’m really not a huge fan of tomato soup. The salad was good, with a nice Italian dressing.
On the plus side, I really enjoyed chatting with my table full of strangers. We recommended various fish fries to one another and talked about the crime of big business stealing pensions from hard-working employees. One big plus was that the dessert table was still plentifully stocked when I went to grab some dessert (even though I was full and left a lot on my plate). There were trays of cookies, some jello and slices of cake. I grabbed a small piece of cake, which I found cloyingly sweet, but it grew on me and I enjoyed it. It was nice and moist.
And you can’t beat the price – $11/12 for all-you-can-eat. Unfortunately I can never eat more than one plate at AYCE spots. The guy next to me went back for seconds, and my friend’s friend went back for thirds the last time they were there. So if you value quantity over quality this is the place for you. Like I said, maybe I was just having an off night and am being a little harsh, because I have heard rave reviews from people whose opinions I value.
La Vera Party Center
32200 Chardon Road
Willoughby Hills, OH 44094