Food & Drink

The Best Italian Restaurants in Cleveland

Published On 09/27/2016 Published On 09/27/2016
Lago
Meatballs at Lago | Barney Taxel/Courtesy of Lago
Courtesy of Flour

Nora

Little Italy

In our humble opinion, the very best kind of Italian food features high-quality seasonal ingredients served simply. With dishes such as cherry-peach compote topping creamy burrata, rosemary crostini, and fettuccini with pancetta carbonara and a poached egg dished up in an intimate, white-tablecloth setting, Nora executes this principle to a very elegant T.

Bruno's Ristorante & Catering (edited)

Bruno's Ristorante & Catering

Ohio City

Red-sauce fanatics flock to this informal neighborhood spot for hearty portions of Italian classics you can’t stop digging your fork into. Don’t miss Bruno’s homemade lasagna, which is exactly like your grandma used to make. Unless your grandma isn’t Italian; then it’s probably way better.

Marotta's

Cleveland Heights

With a snug interior styled after an Italian cafe and a reclusive patio that's equally enticing, Marotta’s could draw diners on its atmosphere alone. But with its array of homemade pastas and some of the very best pizza in Cleveland, food is most definitely Marotta’s main attraction. When an empty table is hard to come by in this no-reservations spot (which is most of the time), you'd be wise to grab a pizza to-go and enjoy it at the equally excellent Wine Spot, just a few doors down the road.

Giovanni's Ristorante (edited)

Giovanni's Ristorante

Beachwood

This special-occasion restaurant offers excellent service and decadent Italian dishes served in an upscale setting (who isn't into glistening chandeliers and a wall of wines?). If you’re feeling imaginative, start your meal with the Chefs Collection of Interesting Things, described as “house-made terrines and pates, whipped ricotta, and an assortment of eclectic garniture of a fanciful nature.” (Yes, really.) Don’t even think about skipping Giovanni’s truly sublime house-made desserts.

Johnny's Bar

Fulton Rd

We know 2016’s glorious patio days are numbered, but if you’re going to enjoy one last alfresco meal in Cleveland, let it be at Johnny’s lush backyard garden. This longstanding Fulton Rd destination dishes out some damn fine Northern Italian cuisine, including potato gnocchi with sautéed shrimp, broccoli, and cream, as well as an ever-classic surf & turf.

The D.C. Pasta Co.

Strongsville

With a number of local restaurants to his name, chef Dante Boccuzzi is seemingly everywhere these days -- including the ‘burbs. Although, of course, you can’t go wrong with any of his spots, D.C. Pasta throws a bone to suburbanites who are seeking a dining experience that’s more Downtown than strip mall. Although the menu changes regularly, don’t miss the linguine alla carbonara with truffle, a popular mainstay on D.C. Pasta’s menu since it first opened.  

Courtesy of Flour Restaurant

Flour Restaurant

Moreland Hills

With a modern-industrial setting that feels like a cleaned-up, hip version of a classic joint, Flour offers creative new takes on Italian cuisine alongside old-school dishes. For instance, diners can dig into a “Big A$$ Meatball” with whipped ricotta, Sicilian provolone, and sage, or stick to a tried-and-true favorite like tagliatelle Bolognese. No matter which route you take, it’s bound to be delicious.

Lago

The Flats

Two words: lobster gnocchi. Well, OK, there’s far more to this glamorous Italian restaurant in the heart of the new Flats, including an excellent wine list and some of the area’s best food, but it’s certainly a dish that’s not to be missed. Pair your pasta with a hunk of fresh bread, a bowl of warm olives, and a glass or two of rich Italian red wine, and you have yourself one outstandingly indulgent meal.  

Stino da Napoli

Stino da Napoli

Rocky River

In today’s plastic world, it’s true that cash-only restaurants can be a real pain in the rear. But trust us, Stino da Napoli is well worth the minor inconvenience of a pre-dinner trip to the ATM. This warm and welcoming spot in Rocky River’s adorable Downtown strip serves up mouthwatering Italian classics such as a bright caprese salad and lush linguine with clams.  

Pepper's Italian Restaurant

Lakewood

You don’t have to be dressed to the nines to dine at Pepper’s -- just be sure to bring your appetite. This Lakewood favorite serves the kind of casual Italian food you probably remember digging into as a child, including chicken Parmesan and meat & cheese ravioli hiding under house-made tomato sauce. In fact, we suggest you wear loose-fitting pants for this nostalgic trip down memory lane.

Courtesy of Chinato

Chinato

Downtown

The fourth restaurant in chef Zack Bruell’s local enterprise, Chinato serves upscale Italian food in the heart of Cleveland’s bustling East 4th Street district. Dishes such as smoked whole chicken with radish salad and truffle glaze and the stuffed swordfish with olive paste take the best of several Italian regions and meld them all into one delicious spot.

Michelangelo's

Little Italy

Competition is everywhere in Cleveland’s Little Italy, yet Michelangelo’s quietly sets itself apart from the rest with its fine food served in a sophisticated setting, replete with a fireplace and overstuffed leather chairs. Do not miss the sacchetti al tartufo: ricotta- and black truffle-stuffed pasta with black truffle cream sauce. Once in a while, we all deserve a dish as luxurious as this.

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1. Nora 2181 Murray Hill Rd, Cleveland, OH 44106 (Little Italy)

Helmed by Chef Eddie Zalar -- whose impressive CV of New York City restaurants is a testimony to his culinary chops –- this cozy trattoria is a noteworthy addition to Little Italy’s dining options. There’s an emphasis on tradition and family here: the spot is named for Zalar’s daughter, and it’s not uncommon to see the chef himself behind the line preparing standout plates like the perfectly crispy calamari fritti with gremolata, chorizo, and chili romesco. Between the intimate ambience (dim lights, immaculate white table linens, soft music in the background) and the homemade bombolini – elegantly served with lemon gelato and glazy blueberries -- it’s an ideal spot for date night.

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2. Bruno's Ristorante 2644 W 41st St, Cleveland, OH 44113 (Ohio City)

Red sauce fanatics flock to this informal, neighborhood spot for hearty portions of Italian classics you can’t stop digging your fork into. Don’t miss Bruno’s homemade lasagna, which is exactly like your grandma used to make. Unless your grandma isn’t Italian; then it’s probably way better.

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3. Marotta's 2289 Lee Rd, Cleveland Heights, OH 44118 (Cleveland Heights)

With a dimly lit, European bistro-like atmosphere, Marotta's in Cleveland Heights is the kind of neighborhood spot you wouldn’t mind settling into night after night for a good glass of wine and a generous serving of quality Italian comfort food. Although it’s hard to pass over the tempting array of homemade pastas and entrees, pizza aficionados are wise to head straight for the pies. Plus, the extensive all-Italian wine list features vintages such as the 1997 Brunello di Montalcino. When the weather is warm, its patio and terrace—complete with a beautiful natural brick wall—is where you want to be dining.

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4. Giovanni's Ristorante 25550 Chagrin Blvd, Cleveland, OH 44122 (Beachwood)

This special occasion restaurant offers excellent service and decadent Italian dishes served in an upscale setting (who isn't into glistening chandeliers and a wall of wines?). If you’re feeling imaginative, start your meal with the Chefs Collection of Interesting Things, described as “house-made terrines and pates, whipped ricotta, and an assortment of eclectic garniture of a fanciful nature.” (Yes, really.) Don’t even think about skipping Giovanni’s truly sublime house-made desserts.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
5. Johnny's Bar 3164 Fulton Rd, Cleveland, OH 44109

This longstanding Fulton Road destination dishes out some damn fine Northern Italian cuisine including potato gnocchi with sautéed shrimp, broccoli and cream, as well as an ever-classic surf and turf.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
6. The DC Pasta Co 12214 Pearl Rd, Strongsville, OH 44136 (Strongsville)

With a number of local restaurants to his name, Chef Dante Boccuzzi is seemingly everywhere. Of course, you can’t go wrong with any of his spots, but D.C. Pasta throws a bone to suburbanites who are seeking a dining experience that’s more downtown than strip mall. Although the menu changes regularly, don’t miss the linguine alla carbonara with truffle, a popular mainstay on D.C. Pasta’s menu since it first opened.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
7. Flour 34205 Chagrin Blvd, Moreland Hills, OH 44022

Bottomless mimosas? Check. Nutella-stuffed French toast? Check. Wood-fired pizzas? Check. Three checks and I guess you'd better check it out then.

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8. Lago 1091 W 10th St, Cleveland, OH 44113 (The Flats)

This upscale casual spot in the Flats East Aloft Hotel serves fresh takes on Italian classics. Take in the Lake Erie breeze on the patio or dine in the warmly lit main room, which turns into a dance spot later in the night.

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9. Stino da Napoli 19070 Old Detroit Rd, Rocky River, OH 44116 (Rocky River)

In today’s plastic world, it’s true that cash only restaurants can be a real pain in the rear. But trust us, Stino da Napoli is well worth the minor inconvenience of a pre-dinner trip to the ATM. This warm and welcoming spot in Rocky River’s adorable downtown strip serves up mouthwatering Italian classics such as a bright caprese salad and lush linguine with clams.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
10. Pepper's Italian Restaurant 12401 Detroit Ave, Cleveland, OH 44107 (Lakewood)

You don’t have to be dressed to the nines to dine at Pepper’s -- just be sure to bring your appetite. This Lakewood favorite serves the kind of casual Italian food you probably remember digging into as a child, including chicken parmesan and meat and cheese ravioli hiding under house made tomato sauce. In fact, we suggest you wear loose fitting pants for this nostalgic trip down memory lane.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
11. Chinato 2079 E 4th St, Cleveland, OH 44115 (Downtown)

The fourth restaurant in Chef Zack Bruell’s local enterprise, Chinato serves upscale Italian food in the heart of Cleveland’s bustling East 4th Street district. Dishes such as smoked whole chicken with radish salad and truffle glaze and the stuffed swordfish with olive paste take the best of several Italian regions and meld them all into one delicious spot.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
12. Michaelangelo's Italian Food and Wine Bar 2198 Murray Hill Rd, Cleveland, OH 44106 (Little Italy)

Competition is everywhere in Cleveland’s Little Italy, yet Michelangelo’s quietly sets itself apart from the rest with its fine food served in a sophisticated setting, replete with a fireplace and overstuffed leather chairs. Do not miss the sacchetti al tartufo: ricotta- and black truffle-stuffed pasta with black truffle cream sauce. Once in a while, we all deserve a dish as luxurious as this.

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