Cleveland, a city renowned for its rich history and vibrant cultural tapestry, is also home to a thriving culinary scene that reflects the city’s diversity and love for food. Among the numerous gastronomic gems, Italian cuisine holds a special place, with a range of eateries that offer the finest flavors from the boot-shaped nation. In this delectable exploration, we set out to discover the finest dining establishments that masterfully capture the essence of Italy in each bite. Whether you’re a local looking for new culinary experiences or a visitor eager to explore the city’s rich gastronomy, this guide is your passport to savoring the most authentic and mouthwatering dishes that Cleveland has to offer. Join us on a journey through the flavors of Italy, ensuring your next meal is a memorable and delicious excursion.
Head down to the Clark-Fulton district and visit this iconic Cleveland restaurant. Johnny’s Bar is an upscale location with Italian bar cuisine, and it’s on Fulton Rd and Trent Ave, near Trent Park. It’s a perfect place for classy Italian food and drinks, especially if you enjoy a New York-style bar feel. Popular with locals, Johnny’s Bar has been in Cleveland for over 80 years. When I go to Johnny’s Bar, I usually order the Italian Feast. It has a little bit of everything, from linguini to shrimp to marinara sauce. Visit during lunch, and you can try the veal stuffed banana peppers.
If you prefer a casual restaurant with traditional Italian cuisine, visit Bruno’s Ristorante. Bruno’s is a recipient of multiple prestigious Cleveland food awards, and it’s the best place for a romantic date night. Enjoy a relaxing evening at this Clark-Fulton location near the Northwest Freeway. Bruno’s has a well-stocked bar you must try, and the staff will suggest wine pairings for certain dishes. Make sure to try the Italian wine with the Eggplant Parmigiano. I like to order a calzone and fill it with my favorite meats and vegetables, and you can choose mushrooms, onions, chicken, green peppers, and more.
La Dolce Vita is a classic Italian restaurant in Cleveland’s Little Italy with a vintage vibe, and it’s on Mayfield Rd and Murray Hill Rd, near the President Garfield tomb and monument. The place is something of an institution in Little Italy. Terry Tarantino has been running it since 1989, and he cooks with local produce and imported pasta and olive oils from the Mediterranean. Start with the Sweet Life Trio, an appetizer with a meatball, a Hungarian hot, and eggplant parm. I like to order the Magic Mushroom for dinner. It’s a traditional flatbread with portobello mushrooms, mozzarella, and tomato.
Michaelangelo’s is an upscale wine bar near Cleveland’s University Circle. It’s a secluded location, perfect for romantic dinners or intimate conversations with friends. Chef Michael Annandono, who comes from a family of pasta makers, presides over the kitchen. When I visit Michaelangelo’s, I order the Raviolini di Aragosta. It has handmade pasta with fresh lobster and vodka-tomato cream sauce. I also like the arugula salad with limoncello, especially with a glass of white wine. Don’t forget to order the Tiramisu Della Casa for dessert. The bittersweet chocolate complements the espresso and mascarpone, and it’s a Michaelangelo classic you won’t want to miss.
1438 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, OH 44115
Cibreo Italian Kitchen is the perfect place to go for upscale Italian cuisine and cocktails. The restaurant vibe is rustic and trendy, and the classic brick decor and stone archways create a chic setting. Cibreo is in Downtown Cleveland, near the historic Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, so head down to Euclid Ave and visit this stylish joint. Start with a bruschetta antipasto, and enjoy the pecorino toscano with basil. I like to order a warm bowl of porcini and sausage bean soup. I also recommend the seafood risotto with scallops, lobster, and shrimp, and the risotto has hints of saffron and chives.
Head to Little Italy and visit Etna, a cozy cafe with seafood and modern Italian cuisine. You can sit on the outdoor patio and taste traditional recipes with an old-world vibe or dine inside and visit the wine bar. Try the signature starter, the Etna salad, with sliced fennel, arugula, and orange. The spaghetti scampi is also fantastic, and the chefs cook it in white wine. If you like steak, order the 10 oz strip steak with Tuscano extra virgin olive oil. Or you can try a thin slice of pork tenderloin with mushrooms, wine, and a touch of cream.
Go to this historic location in Little Italy and enjoy old-school Italian cuisine. Guarino’s is the oldest eatery in Cleveland, and Sicily native Vincenzo Guarino founded it in the early 1900s. It has Victorian decor and a vintage vibe, and the location is in an old family home. Order from the House Favorites menu, and try the 60-year-old lasagna recipe. I enjoy the chicken piccata on pasta with red peppers, capers, and lemons. Order a pizza to share with your group, or take it home for later. Try a Capri-style with basil, tomato, and mozzarella, or taste Santino-style pizza with banana peppers.
Lago East Bank is a family restaurant in North Coast Harbor. It’s just a few streets from the Cuyahoga River, on Front Ave and W 10th St, and the cuisine is Northern Italian. The restaurant has a cozy atmosphere and a beautiful view of Lake Erie. The crispy cauliflower is one of my favorite dishes, and it comes with Calabrian chili, breadcrumbs, and parmesan. Lago East Bank also serves seafood, so try the salmon, shrimp scampi, or daily market fish. Order an espresso martini for a special treat, or try the Whiskey Business with vanilla bourbon and Godiva dark chocolate.
2100 Superior Viaduct, Cleveland, OH 44113
Go to the Superior Viaduct area for an artsy restaurant with Northern Italian dishes. Luca is near Heritage Park, and it’s right on the riverside. It’s a great place to order small plates and enjoy the best river views in Cleveland. Luca was on the USA Today 10 best restaurants list, and husband and wife Luca and Lola Sema operate the restaurant and kitchen. The handmade pappardelle is one of the best pasta dishes, and it has duck and wild boar. Try the Ribollita, a Tuscan white bean soup with fresh vegetables. Luca is also famous for its specialty coffees.
Mamma Santa’s is a casual restaurant with award-winning pizza and pasta. It’s on Mayfield and East 123rd near Lake View Park and has the best Sicilian cuisine in Cleveland. Make sure to stop by this established institution before leaving the city and visit the family restaurant that’s been running since 1961. I love all the Sicilian dishes on Mamma Santa’s menu, but my favorite is the Chicken Cacciatore. When I visit the restaurant, I usually order the meal with a side of spaghetti and white clam sauce. The pasta is homemade, and you can try ravioli, fettucini, lasagna, manicotti, and more.
Mia Bella is a full-service Italian eatery in Little Italy. It’s off Mayfield and Murray Rd, and it’s the best restaurant to go to if you like a relaxed environment. The cuisine draws inspiration from the Italian coast, and you’ll find unique Mediterranean dishes at Mia Bella. The chefs source their wines from around the world, and you’ll have a fantastic global dining experience. I always start with bread service. It comes with fresh house bread, olive oil, and European butter, and you won’t be able to stop eating it. Try to save some room for the food because Mia Bella serves hefty portions. The classic Mia Bella pasta has basil, garlic, Cavatelli, and a topping of homemade marinara.
Il Venetian provides high-end Italian dining to its St. Clair Ave customers. It has an intimate setting, so it’s perfect for date nights. Il Venetian boasts local and Italian-designed decor throughout their restaurant, and they offer 200 wines for your tasting pleasure. They offer a lunch, dinner, and happy hour menu, so no matter what time of day you drop by, Il Venetian will have the perfect meal for you. I love their housemade pasta, especially their gnocchi, which is served with tomato and cream. You can’t go wrong with their pappardelle, which is garnished with seasonal wild mushrooms and herbs. If pasta isn’t your thing, try out their beautiful pistachio-crusted yellowfin tuna with celery puree and roasted cauliflower. Of course, they also offer Italian staple chicken parmigiana, served with spaghetti Pomodoro. If you have a sweet tooth, try their signature spumoni gelato “spaghetti” and tiramisu. Of course, they have a rotating gelato selection that varies by day.
If you like pasta, Trattoria is the best choice for you. Trattoria is a casual restaurant with classic Italian cuisine, and it’s on Mayfield Rd in Little Italy. It has a well-stocked bar, so come ready to discover some new favorite drinks. If you can’t get enough of the tasty dishes, buy a jar of house sauce to take home. Try ravioli, linguine, fettuccine, or gluten-free pasta with an ample serving of house sauce. I recommend the lobster-filled ravioli with vodka cream sauce and fresh shrimp. If you have a big crowd, order a pizza to share, like the Italian sausage and mushroom pizza.
Corleone’s is a modern restaurant near Tuxedo Park with a chic edge, and it has Italian-American fusion food. Visit Corleone’s for the cosmopolitan vibe, and stay for the classic and creative dishes. Stop by and participate in cigar night, or check the schedule and see if a special guest is visiting. You can visit the elegant lounge area and enjoy a wide selection of drinks or try something from the full menu in the lounge or dining area. I like the Penne Alla Vodka, with vodka-flamed sweet onions and spicy cream sauce. Don’t forget the luxurious crème brûlée for dessert.
Geraci’s has been a Cleveland staple since 1956. It has an old-school vibe and is a family-operated joint with traditional Sicilian recipes. Make sure to bring cash because this vintage place is cash-only, and expect to be enchanted by the classic charm of the brick building. Geraci’s is in University Heights, a few streets from Walter Stinson Park. I recommend a handheld meal like the meatball sub with provolone or the Italian sausage burger. The traditional pasta plates are also an excellent choice, and you get to craft your dish. Choose your favorite pasta, sauce, and protein or vegetable toppings.
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