Mama Catena Vino e’ Cucina

I live at the top of the hill into Little Italy, but I gladly drive to Euclid to eat at Mama Catena Vino e’ Cucina. I discovered it recently while at the Euclid Library for an event. I left hungry and searched for some place nearby. I am so glad I chose it. As soon as I walked in I remembered having seen a video of them receiving an award for Best Sinful Dessert in Cleveland, so I immediately knew I was going to be in good hands. Established in 1989, it was closed for a while after a mechanical fire and has recently reopened.

This family-owned and operated gem has a lot going for it. Everything is homemade – from the bread to the pasta. The bread is an adaptation of the pizza dough and is fired as a flatbread that is cut in half and topped with a light garlic butter and pepper. I actually wish the bread was more substantial, but it is at least plentiful. They are willing to keep bringing out more and more.

I first want to note that I love their presentations. The wood planks that serve the bread and the funky, off-kilter bowls that the soup, salad and pasta come in are just whimsical and fun.

The house soup is their lasagna soup. I haven’t had a chance to try it, because I don’t want to overload on tomato sauce when I’m there but I will soon. I have tried one of their soups of the day. The soup that day was “chicken soup,” and it was a delightful soup that was reminiscent of Italian wedding without the meatballs and tons of escarole. There were some greens and tiny pasta balls. I had to add just a bit of salt and pepper to it to liven it up to my liking, but I happily finished it.

The side salad with house Italian dressing always hits the spot. It is dressed with the perfect amount of dressing – not too little, not too much – and topped with shredded cheese, cherry tomato halves, cucumber slices and a couple pepperoni. I got to have my vegetarian friends’ pepperoni last time. So if you are a vegetarian, be forewarned to order with no pepperoni.

They have house pasta specialties such as lasagna, involtini, and pepe e cacio, various meat and vegetarian entrees, focaccia stuffed sandwiches, pizza and calzones as well as Pasta Your Way. Regular pasta (spaghettini, capellini, penne, rigatoni, ziti tagliati, and fettuccini) is a base rate of $10, cavatelli and gnocchi are $11, stuffed pasta (meat, cheese or spinach ravioli and stuffed shells) is $12, bucatini, spaghetti chitarra and and “gigli toscana” are $12.50, and whole wheat pasta and gluten-free penne are $14. Pappadelle, burrata ravioli, and lobster ravioli are $14. They offer twelve different pasta sauces – marinara, carbonara, meat sauce, pomodoro, alfredo, “rosella” (a blend of their marinara and alfredo), piccata (lemon butter), marsala, aglio e olio, pesto, putanesca, and salsa a vongoli (baby clams slow cooked in either creamy alfredo, marinara, or oil and garlic). The pesto, carbonara, putanesca, pomodoro, alfredo, rosella, salsa a vongoli have an upcharge of $3 and the other sauces (except marinara) have an upcharge of $2. You can also add on various meats, seafood and veggies for  $2.50-$3.50 depending on the addition.

I had a bite of my friend’s gnocchi in the rosella sauce, and it was right up there with Trattoria’s gnocchi, which has been my gold star standard for years. The gnocchi were light, and the rosella sauce complemented it well. Another friend ordered the gnocchi with the putanesca sauce. She was also very pleased with her selection.

The first time I ate here the Sunday Sauce called to me, and I simply can’t break away from ordering it. Sunday Sauce is what every Italian I know makes – call it sauce or gravy, it is simmered for a long time with pork neck and/or back, sausage and meatballs or even braciole. I order it every time I go and just vary the pasta. The Sunday Sauce is a delicious tomato sauce that comes with an Italian sausage, a meatball and some pork. For $20 it is generous enough for leftovers every time.

Unfortunately another friend was less thrilled with her spaghetti and meatballs and sent it back. The noodles were overcooked, and she didn’t like the sauce at all (I think she had ordered the pomodoro sauce). We were a big table and it took forever to get our meals that night, so it might have been a blip. Although, she is Italian, so why she didn’t order the Sunday Sauce is beyond me.

They are known for their Involtini pasta, which is ricotta cheese-filled pasta rolled into a log then cut into large pin wheels. I ordered it the second time I ate here – with the Sunday Sauce. It was almost too rich and decadent.

The pizza at the table next to me the other day looked delicious, and I was almost tempted to order one. One of the employees walked the little boy who enjoyed the pizza into the back to see the pizza oven.

We celebrated one of my friend’s birthdays here and I knew we had to order to cannoli cake. It is two layers of vanilla cake, a layer of chocolate cake and tons of layers of cannoli filling, coffee liqueur, as well as crushed cannoli shells that are dipped in chocolate and a chocolate ganache. This cake is the BOMB. I am not exaggerating that it is probably the best dessert I have ever had – and I don’t like cannoli! It is light and ethereal – not dense at all. Simply heavenly. A small cake runs $40 and easily fed eight of us and yielded eight generous slices to take home as well. You can also order this cake for one person – just call ahead and order it.

They have an excellent wine list, and I can recommend the limoncello cocktail and Venetian Spritz!

Contact info:

Mama Catena Vino e’ Cucina
711 Babbitt Road
Euclid, OH 44123
(216) 261-1168

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Fish Fry Friday #6 – EDWINS Butcher Shop

I hit the “I can’t look at another fried fish” point and was going to sit today out – until one of my friends re-posted a status update from EDWINS Butcher Shop advertising a six piece shrimp dinner with fries and slaw for $5.99 or a 12 piece for $9.99 on Facebook. Shrimp sounded good to me, so I called to make sure they had some left (it was about 40 minutes to their closing time) and headed out. I only live 11 minutes from there, so it was nice to stick close to home tonight.

I parked on the street outside the butcher shop, since it was just on 6:30, and headed into the butcher shop. It’s a cute little storefront. About half of it is tables for people to eat their food, and the other half is a large meat counter, coolers, a small freezer and a well-curated selection of specialty items.

I purchased my shrimp dinner and then browsed while I waited. I was not going to shop, but then I was tempted by the Sprecher’s Root Beer and prepared Banana Pudding in one of the coolers. So then of course I needed a strip steak, Colman’s mustard powder, some chocolate for wine pairings and Italian bread from Orlando. Right as I was checking out, my dinner came out of the kitchen. I grabbed my shopping bag and headed out as the next customer ordered a couple fish dinners and a chicken dinner. It was 6:50.

I drove home with the delicious smell wafting through the car and anticipated a good meal. I was not disappointed. The shrimp were pounded a little thinner than I like, but they were still moist with a crunchy exterior. There was a slice of lemon hidden under the fries, which I squeezed over the shrimp to give it a light, bright lemon flavor. The fries had a nice light seasoning to them, and the slaw was good. I didn’t come for the slaw though. The 12 piece dinner was delicious and definitely hit the spot. I ate a couple spoonfuls of creamy and luscious banana pudding and popped it back in the fridge for later.

EDWINS is also serving a fried cod sandwich and catfish po’boy for Lent if you want something portable. I’ll definitely be back to try some of their other sandwiches and hot meals. They regularly serve a 1/2 chicken, fried chicken, ribs, brisket, pulled pork, burgers, and wings with a host of sides.

 

Contact info:

EDWINS Butcher Shop
13025 Buckeye Road
Cleveland, Ohio 44120
(216) 417-1100

Burton-Middlefield American Legion Pancake Breakfast

I like this pancake breakfast because they serve some delicious potatoes and they don’t limit the o.j. Most pancake breakfasts in Burton have closed up shop for the season, but this one is still going strong. They were serving from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Next week is the last week until next year. I rolled up at 11:30, and the parking lot was pretty empty. Needless to say there was no line, but they advertise there is no waiting. They have seating upstairs for large groups.

I walked in and paid my $10 to the man at the cash table. He gave me a ticket, which I turned into the kitchen window in exchange for my choice of blueberry or regular pancakes, sausage patties, potatoes and scrambled egg. They were serving them out of metal serving platters.

I deposited my stuff at a table and went to collect some plasticware, coffee and orange juice. They have the coolest drip collectors on the coffee urns that they made from two-liter bottles. They have hot water, regular coffee and decaf coffee equipped with those bad boys. I think that is pretty ingenious.

The tables had paper placemats set and squeeze bottles of maple syrup that they regularly replaced. There were also small bottle of ketchup for those who like ketchup on their eggs or potatoes. A large catch-all table had a bottle of sugar-free syrup and a couple other alternatives like agave as well as butter for the pancakes.

I doctored up my coffee with cream and sugar at the table and then dug into the meal. I had chosen one regular and one blueberry pancake and two sausage patties. I enjoyed both of them, but preferred the blueberry pancake enough to get one more when I went to get a little bit more later. It was a little moister from the addition of the fresh and plentiful blueberries. The eggs were well cooked like I prefer them (if you like runny eggs you might be disappointed). There were a couple dollops of egg that were dried out and dark yellow, but I just didn’t eat them. The potatoes have an onion flavor to them that makes them unique. Round two was a blueberry pancake, a sausage patty and a scoop of potatoes and a second cup of orange juice. I barely finished round two.

I rolled out of there shortly after noon and had definitely hit my satiation limit. I drove home with the windows down and enjoyed the warm weather. What a difference a week makes. Last week the trees were covered in snow and I slept with my window open all night last night.

Next week they will be serving biscuits and sausage gravy (probably to get rid of all the extra sausage).

Contact info:

Burton-Middlefield American Legion
14052 Goodwin Street
Burton, OH 44021
(440) 834-8621

Fish Fry Friday #5 – St. Andrew Ukrainian Catholic Church

St. Andrew Ukrainian Catholic Church has a special place in my heart. It is where my grandparents and uncle are buried. My dad spent many childhood weekends in the fellowship hall. When all of my friends couldn’t make the fish fry at St. Gabriel’s in Concord I decided to stop by the cemetery and grab some excellent fish and pierogi. I was at this fish fry a few years ago with fellow bloggers Tom and Alicia. Tom is the one who inspired my love of fish fries with his Lenten Project. He would visit two fish fries a night and rate them. His post on April 4, 2011 commemorates our first visit to St. Andrew.

My ideal fish fry has fried fish and homemade pierogi, which is surprisingly not all that common. St. Andrew and many other fish fries in Parma are known for their pierogi more than for their fish. I drove past St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, St. Anthony of Padua, and St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral on my way to St. Andrew. All three have stellar pierogi and are on State Road.

The room is small and lots of people staked their claim. The line to pay and get the dinners from the kitchen is on the right. The to-go area is in the middle of the photo against the wall. The condiments and dessert table is to the left, and the bar is not pictured but built into a cubby in the wall to the left.

After turning onto Pleasant Valley and then Hoertz, I stopped by my grandparents’ and uncle’s grave to say hi before heading to the Hall. I drove through the cemetery, but you can bypass the cemetery by following the signs to the Hall to the left of the cemetery.

Queued up for fish at 5:10 PM

Dinners are served from 5 to 7:30 during Lent. On our last visit Tom lamented that the fish was a little dry, so I got there fairly early to see if an earlier start time means better fish. I am pleased to say it does. The place was packed, and I queued up in line only to learn that there was a separate area for to-go orders. I had had lunch at The Blue Door earlier that day so 5 pm was a good start time but not good because I wasn’t hungry at the time. I also wondered if I would find a seat.

Kitchen window with the kitchen workers hard at work

Apart from a line to the kitchen window to pick up the dinners, the eat-in queue uses the same stations as the to-go queue. There is also someone who will try to accommodate larger groups by reserving seats while you are in line. The place is not big though, so groups may be out of luck depending on when they are there.

Get in line and grab your condiments, cole slaw or apple sauce, bread and butter, dessert and coffee

After ordering my fried fish and pierogi dinner ($13) and a side of cabbage and noodles ($3) I queued up for my condiments and dessert. I was offered a choice of cole slaw or apple sauce. The server suggested the cole slaw when I asked. It was homemade and topped with a dash of paprika. They also had smooth and chunky apple sauce. I was next offered a slice of bread, and it was served by a woman wearing gloves who put it in a sandwich bag for me. No need to stick your hand in a bag of bread here! I should also note all the people serving food wore plastic head coverings.

I had a tough time deciding what dessert to choose. There was a wide variety of cake slices, brownies, cookies and chocolate pudding, but I decided to get the panna cotta topped with pureed strawberries. She managed to put a top on it and put it in a box so I could transport it to go. It ended up flipping over in the trunk of my car, but the lid kept everything in place and it only leaked a little juice into the napkins in the bag and the strawberries slid to the side. I could have also gotten coffee or decaf coffee at that station, because coffee is included in the meal price. I then made my way back to the to-go area and waited until the runner with my meal called out my name and verified my order. I grabbed a ginger ale from the bar before heading out.

Cabbage and noodles – well-seasoned and not bland at all

This is where things got a little esoteric. As I was leaving, Iz’s version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow was playing over the speaker outside. There was no music inside as far as I can recall, but for some reason they were piping out music in front of the Hall and it just happened to be a version of my uncle’s favorite song. We played Eva Cassidy’s version at his funeral. I can only assume he was sending me a message thanking me for the visit, and I walked to my car sobbing. I called my sister in tears to share it with her, and we talked about how much we missed our relatives. I particularly miss them around Easter, because my grandmother’s Easter dinners were legendary and my favorite meal every year growing up. Easter was so special at their house. She would make ham and fresh kielbasa and serve them with homemade pierogi (I have a feeling they were from St. Josaphat’s) and soft, yeasty dinner rolls. The house always smelled wonderful, and we would have an Easter egg hunt while dressed in our Easter finery. Those were the days! I had to take a minute to compose myself before driving off.

Flaky fish and plump pierogi served with a little container of melted butter and caramelized onion to pour over it and crown with sour cream

Once I got home I dove into the meal. The fish was flaky and moist, the pierogi were plump and delicious, and the cole slaw was one of the best I’ve had this Lenten season. I saved half of the meal for tomorrow, but I finished the dessert. I’m almost sad this isn’t the last Fish Fry Friday, because it would have definitely been ending on a high note.

Note: the fish and pierogi were just as divine for breakfast the next day after 5 minutes in the air fryer.

Contact info:

St. Andrew Ukrainian Catholic Church (Back Hall)
7700 Hoertz Road
Parma, OH
440-843-9149

Gallucci’s Italian Foods

Gust Gallucci founded Gallucci’s Italian Foods in 1912 after he came to Cleveland in the early 1900’s and discovered a large Italian population who longed for products from their homeland. The store was originally run from a cart on the west side of Cleveland and changed locations several times until it found a home on Euclid Avenue and East 66th Street near downtown Cleveland in 1988. It celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2012 with a big centenary event, which included a dedication to the black granite monument you see at the front door. It is still family-owned and operated, now by the third and fourth generation of Galluccis.

Gallucci’s is the place to go when you are looking for specialty Italian canned foods and treats. When you walk in you see the cash registers to your left and the deli and refrigerated and freezer cases to your right. The cases are filled with cheeses, salami and assorted charcuterie, butter, all the fixings for homemade pizza including dough, sauce, crumbled sausage, pepperoni slices and shredded and shredded cheese. The freezers hold all kinds of frozen Gallucci pastas and seafood that you won’t find anywhere else as well as frozen soup, frozen meatballs (for wedding soup and for pasta dinners), and homemade gelato. The grocery aisles are filled with boxed pasta, canned tomatoes, jars of sauce, olive oils, canned sardines, boxed cookies, Italian coffee, tons of bulk spices, espresso makers, and a good selection of wine. They also have fresh pasta and their canned sauce for an easy and quick home-cooked meal. The store carries multiples of the same product at different prices, to appeal to a range of customers.

Their deli counter has all the specialties, whether it be prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, soppressata, fresh mozzarella, burrata, guanciale, braciole, olives or anything else you may need for an authentic recipe. One recent Yelper warns about their practice of switching out cheaper brands for their brand though, so keep an eye out.

The bakery counter is next to the deli counter against the right wall on the way to the Hot Lunch Counter. The bakery counter has all kinds of Italian cookies and cakes as well as a cooler full of prepared submarine sandwiches (you need to get here early because they run out). I have been known to stock up on prepared subs if a snow storm is predicted.

The olive bar is between the bakery counter and the cooler of sandwiches. You can get stuffed olives for $7.99 a pound, a mix of olives for $6.99 a pound and various other nibbles like pepperocini, giardiniera, etc.

You can also have a sub sandwich made to order at the Hot Lunch Counter against the back wall of the store. The Hot Lunch Counter is open from 11 to 2 one weekdays and offers a lot of prepared carry-out foods for a quick lunch, like their daily lunch specials, a “sangweech”of the day, Italian sausage and meatballs for subs, salads, hot pizza slices, calzones, paninis, and several different pasta specials (lasagna and pasta and meatballs are usually two of them). The pasta comes with choice of salad (tossed, potato or macaroni salad) and garlic bread. I just wish the containers didn’t leak. I damaged a library book when I accidentally pricked the styrofoam container and Italian dressing seeped out, and my shopping bag had a small island of sauce on the bottom when I got home today with my bow tie chicken pasta (see below). It had kind of congealed, so I know butter was in the sauce and it was delicious.

You can also get Gallucci’s amazing Italian wedding soup by the bowl or the quart. It contains lots of meatballs and escarole – as well as lots of flavor. Gallucci’s also offers a daily lunch special (“Coke Special”) during the week. You can get a sub sandwich, a 12 ounce pop and a bag of chips for $6.99. Make sure the sandwich looks fresh though. The last one I got was pretty dried out.

They offer frequent deals like Two Dollar Dog days during lunch from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in honor of the Indians Home Opener on April 1st (and it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke).

Did you also know that Gallucci’s offers hosted dinners with Chef Chuck Masterpaul? I didn’t know until I checked out their website. The next scheduled one is April 24th. The hosted dinners include exclusive access to the store, wine pairing and product suggestions, and consultations with Chef Masterpaul. The cost is $50 per person.

You can subscribe to their various email lists (including the daily lunch specials) here.

Contact info:

Gallucci’s Italian Foods
6610 Euclid Ave
Cleveland, OH 44103
(216) 881-0045

Burton Fire Station Pancake Breakfast

Another weekend in March, another pancake breakfast. I had originally scheduled Burton’s American Legion Pancake Breakfast for this weekend, but my friend who was going to join me is allergic to potatoes. I had also heard rave reviews of the fire station pancake breakfast from friends who went there last weekend instead of joining us at the omelet and pancake breakfast at the high school. So I decided to check out the fire station and do the American Legion one next weekend (the last one for the year).

We decided on a later meet time to avoid a long wait (my friends were in line for 40 minutes – just as we were). Between an arrival time of noon and a freak snow storm that dropped 3-5 inches Burton was decidedly emptier this weekend.

We found a parking space that was very close to the fire station – and most importantly there was absolutely no line whatsoever. We waited a few minutes on the ground floor for a third friend to join us and then headed up the stairs to the second floor. As we were waiting a woman came in asking if there was an elevator because her mother used a walker. The firemen replied there wasn’t, but they had a chair they could transport her in. They strapped her in and carried her up the stairs.

Since there was no line we were able to go straight to the cashier table and purchase our meal. The cost was $8 for all you can eat pancakes and sausage. Extra sausage and extra beverages (water or orange juice) were $1 each. I opted for extra sausage and an extra orange juice, so my meal cost me $10. Still a bargain. We grabbed our trays, a plate, and silverware and mosied up to the window of the kitchen for a stack of pancakes. When asked what kind I wanted I asked for one of each. Somehow that turned into four pancakes – too much for me. The sausage patties were also generous, so I really regretted buying an extra order. I took them home wrapped in a napkin. I was very happy I got a second orange juice though. What is up with the tiny containers of o.j.? They seem wasteful to me and only contain a bit of juice. I do like that they use real plates and real mugs for the meal – not styrofoam like most of the other fish fries or pancake breakfasts.

We easily found seats at a table next to the window, so we enjoyed watching the snowflakes fall outside while eating our pancakes and talking. Volunteers walked around with fresh pancakes and thermoses of coffee. The pancakes on the refill plates were fresher than the ones that had been sitting in the window. I have a feeling they had prepared for a crowd that didn’t materialize due to the weather. My favorite pancake out of the three was the blueberry pancake. The blueberries were plump and plentiful. The buckwheat pancakes were my second favorite. The regular ones were just too thick and dried out (most likely from sitting in the serving trays). We used lots of butter and maple syrup to soften them up.

We sat around talking for two hours. There wasn’t a rush for us to leave since there weren’t people clamoring for seats. My one friend bought a pint of maple syrup and some maple treats to take home with her. We headed back to Cleveland driving through the winter wonderland. It was a great way to start the day. As I said, we are planning on attending the American Legion breakfast next weekend, which is the very last one for the year in Burton.

Contact info:

Burton Volunteer Fire Station
13828 Spring Street
Burton, OH 44021

Fish Fry Friday #4: Benedictine High School

I have a new rule to live by: if a fish fry is run by boys stay far away.

Benedictine High School is a private, Roman Catholic, college preparatory high school for men, located in Cleveland off Martin Luther King Boulevard. The school serves grades 9–12 and has an enrollment of just under 400 young men.

I don’t even know where to start with this disaster. OK, driving in. Apart from a sign on the road there is no indication which outbuilding houses the fish fry. I had to ask a bunch of young men who explained it was in the cafeteria, but don’t ask me where that was. I drove toward a building that said Field House and asked someone else and he explained I could park and walk under the walkway and it would be on the right. Luckily the weather was nice and the door was propped open or I wouldn’t have had a clue which door to go in. Some signage with arrows would be very helpful. Or even just someone standing in the parking lot directing people where to go. But the fish fry wasn’t all that well-attended, so that might be overkill. I should have caught the clue then.

Once I walked into the cafeteria I had to figure out what was going on. The big sign on the wall was apparently from lunch. I missed the silverware, cafeteria trays and napkins, so if you go know that it’s against the wall to your right. There were four dinners to choose from. The signs taped to a table informed me that I could have a two pieces of fried fish, one piece of baked fish, nine pieces of shrimp or eight pierogi. The dinners come with baked potato or french fries, cole slaw or applesauce, bread (grab a piece from the open bags of wheat or white bread sitting there), and coffee, tea or milk. Side orders were available for $2.50 or $3.50 depending on what you wanted. Pop was $0.50 a can. Dessert was available at a bake sale off to the side of the cafeteria. I spent $14 for my meal, sides and two cans of pop.

I was there at around 5:30 and was informed they were out of fish and it would be about 2 minutes. As I stood there they plated up a side of pierogi and a bowl of chowder and stack of crackers for me. I grabbed some condiments and my slice of bread and a pat of butter and waited. When the fish came out they started serving the people who had just walked in until one of the older men supervising noticed and had them serve me. Some of the fish had broken apart and the young man tried to give me a couple pieces parts until I pointed out to the supervisor that there were supposed to be two pieces. Awkward.

Once I paid, bought my pop and sat down I opened up the to-go box (which I requested because I knew I wouldn’t finish) and was just overwhelmed by the food service of it all. I thought I’d have a couple pierogi and chowder with a few bites of fish and pack up the rest. The chowder was the blandest, worst chowder I’ve ever had, so I popped the lid back on and will be doctoring it up tomorrow for lunch. Nothing a little dill and seasoned salt can’t fix. The pierogi did not look appetizing at all, but they weren’t as dry as they look. That was the best part of the meal. The fish was okay. It could have been moister, but it was at least edible. The cole slaw was okay. I chose the baked potato since it is easier to warm up as leftovers, although this isn’t a meal I am looking forward to eating again.

When I left at six o’clock they had run out of individual sour cream packets and had a pint of sour cream and a spoon sitting on the table with the condiments.

If you ever find yourself at this fish fry (but I wouldn’t recommend it), do yourself and order the grilled cheese. It seemed like the most popular choice.

Contact info:

Benedictine High School
2900 Martin Luther King Jr Drive
Cleveland, OH 44104