TODAY’S POINT OF BALANCE: Cleveland Independents started their quarterly gift certificate sales this past Tuesday. In case you were not aware of the organization, the mission of Cleveland Independents is “to protect, nurture and promote independent restaurants in northeast Ohio”. While many of the restaurants have already sold out, there are still a ton of great deals to take advantage of. I managed to get GC to Light Bistro and La Boca – two places I’ve been dying to get to for dinner. A $50 gift certificate for $35? Or a $25 GC for $17.50? That’s a great deal and you are supporting a local business. LOVE IT.
In an effort to keep up our date nights, I attempted to schedule the perfect night out: dinner out in downtown Cleveland followed by going to a Cavs game. Sounds like a lovely Saturday night, right?
I remembered that I purchased a discounted gift certificate to La Strada back during the summer. When I pulled out the GC, I realized that it expired at the end of the month, so our dinner location was SORT OF decided for us. I had gone to La Strada for lunch with my Aunt Kathy and enjoyed that experience. Also knowing that we previously had a nice dinner at La Dolce Vita – which is owned by the same gentleman – I figured we were good to go.
The restaurant’s website describes itself as “a Mediterranean bistro inspired by Italian, Turkish, Albanian, Moroccan, Spanish and Greek kitchens”. That is my favorite thing about La Strada: when you walk in the door from East 4th Street, you feel as you have been transported to the Mediterranean. The atmosphere is so environmental, I suddenly have the urge to switch back to my maiden last name!
Hans started with a Dogfish Head IPA and a few rounds of bread:
I started with much less bread and my new favorite white wine: a Pinot Grigio:
I was seriously craving some Italian Wedding Soup, with “escarole”, “egg drop” and “polpetti”:
Italian Wedding Soup fun facts according to Wikipedia:
- “Italian wedding soup is an Italian-American soup consisting of green vegetables and meat. It is popular in the United States, especially northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.”
- Also, “the term ‘wedding soup’ is a mistranslation of the Italian language, minestra maritata (‘married soup’), which is a reference to the fact that green vegetables and meats go well together.” It’s the MARRIAGE of the veggies and meat in the soup, therefore, wedding soup!
I highly enjoyed the components of this wedding soup. I loved the egg drop noodles compared to the usual itty-bitty noodles we’re all used to enjoying. The meatballs themselves were wonderful and must have been a blend of beef and lamb – always a good thing for me! The broth itself was a bit on the salty side, but overall, I was satisifed and would have ordered another bowl!
As I didn’t want to overstuff myself, I ordered the “Fungi Griglia” for my main from the appetizer menu, which was described as “portabella, pancetta, hand roasted red pepper, smoked scamorzza”:
So here’s the only problem: I don’t know if it was sitting too long at the pass, but the cheese went from ooey and gooey to congealed mess very quickly. Unfortunately, I ended up picking it apart to remove the cheese from the rest of the dish – the wierd cheese consistency was turning me off. However, the rest of the dish was good, but I wasn’t blown away by this starter. I should have taken the waiter’s recommendation and got the calamari – you live and learn.
Hans was much smarter and ordered his standby: Fettuccine Fellini with “pancetta, gorgonzola, tomato cream”.
With that combo, how can you go wrong?! La Dolce Vita does the same sauce, but over gnocchi, so when Hans saw the sauce on the La Strada menu, he didn’t even look at the rest of the pasta and entrée choices. Hans demolished the entire plate – with a few bites stolen by me! The Fellini sauce is pretty much what you expect: heavy, creamy, and tasty. We did agree that we liked the sauce served over gnocchi instead of over the fettuccine. The gnocchi gave the sauce something to hold on to, compared to the fettuccine’s smooth texture. Also, the fettuccine probably could have been cooked for a tad longer – it was just barely al dente.
Alright, I’m nit-picking. But gift certificate or not, dining on East 4th Street is not cheap. While I was pleased with the meal we got at La Strada, I have to admit that I probably will only return for Happy Hour. I still have to get back to Lola, Greenhouse Tavern and Saigon, as well as go to Chinato, which just recently opened. We’ll probably stick with La Dolce Vita in Little Italy when Hans needs his Fellini kick.
When the ticket scalpers wanted $75 for $19 tickets (?!?!?!), we decided to walk back down East 4th Street. We drooled over the food in the window at Chinto, grabbed a cup of coffee to go from Erie Island Coffee Co., and stopped into Chocolate Bar to window shop the dessert options. We ended up watching the Cavaliers win from our couch at home – overall, a successful date night indeed.
SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO: Stuffed Cabbage Saturday Madness!