A hungry girl's adventures in Cleveland and beyond.

Leave the ciabatta. Take the cannoli.

Last weekend my friends and I went to Little Italy.  It was a perfect summer evening and we were looking forward to walking around and soaking up the sunshine and ambience of this favorite ethnic enclave.

We started our evening with some pasta and vino at Gusto.  It was my first time there and I was looking forward to checking it out.  We were surprised at how empty it was especially for a Saturday night.  It did get busier as the night progressed but was never at full capacity.  We ordered wine and bruschetta. The bruschetta sounded amazing  - grilled Ciabatta with smoked mozzarella, grilled asparagus and prosciutto drizzled with white truffle oil.    When it arrived we were EXTREMELY disappointed because it consisted of two slices of bread, four slivers of prosciutto, and one stalk of asparagus...for $11!  Thankfully it tasted good but we all considered it one of the biggest rip offs ever. 

We each ordered different pastas so we could taste an assortment of flavors while we were there.  I ordered  Fettucini with wild boar meat sauce with Parmigiano Reggiano because I had read about it in several online reviews.  We also had cavatelli with butternut squash in a sage butter sauce and gnocchi with a green olive caper pesto.  Everything was fabulous!  The pesto was unusual but the flavors were a nice contrast to the gnocchi.  The portion sizes varied with the cavatelli being the largest and my linguine being the smallest.  Mine was so good I literally wanted to lick the sauce off the plate...probably because I hardly had received any food!  : )  Our overall impression was that the food was very good but the prices were out of line.  There are places with equally flavorful food that are a better value. 

We then walked around and took a peak at a bocci tournament that was being played at Alta House.  We also stopped at the Murray Hill Market which is a great little neighborhood grocery store.  They have a surprisingly good assortment of canned and fresh foods including Jeni's ice cream. They also sell homemade prepared foods.  We'll have to go back for some of the porcetta!

Next we decided to head over to Washington Place Bistro.  This is the new spot at the former Baricelli Inn.  A table opened up on the patio and we grabbed it.  We were disappointed that there was not a Baricelli cheese plate on the menu.  We were informed that they use the cheeses in the dishes but do not sell them separately.  Due to the constant requests for it, they are considering adding it to the menu.  We were looking for something small and light.  There were so many fabulous sounding choices on the menu that we had a hard time chosing.  We finally decided to split the Field Greens Salad at our waitresses' suggestion:  great lakes growers hydroponic greens, shaved fennel, dried cherries, navel orange, sunflower seeds, citrus vinaigrette.  It was a refreshing choice and the perfect size to split with a friend.  After looking at their menu, we decided that we are definitely coming back here for dinner - and soon! 

I must try:
*OXTAIL PIEROGIES [ oxtail and mushroom ragout, ohio city pasta truffled potato pierogies, caramelized onion, horseradish crème fraiche ] — 13.5 
*PORK BELLY SANDWICH [ grilled brioche, honey & huckleberry preserves, manchego and truffle fondue ] — 8.5

Everything on the menu sounds like heaven and the prices make this a great value.  They also have a special 2 for $40 menu on Wednesdays that make this a must do!  For $40, you share an appetizer, enjoy 2 entrees and get a bottle of wine!

We decided that no visit to Little Italy is complete without a cannoli so our plan was to get dessert to go.  I always have gone to Corbo's for cannoli but my friend said that she always goes to Presti's.  I figured that this was the perfect excuse for a cannoli taste off so we got one from each (plus some other goodies too!)

Corbo's had a choice between plain or chocolate dipped shells and we went for the chocolate.  Presti's only offered plain shells.  We figured that while this wasn't truly and "apples to apples" comparison, we would still be able to pick a winner.

Presti's cannoli is pre-filled and did not look as appetizing. We we worried that it would be soggy. Corbo's looked better out of the box.  I think  the chocolate dipping really helped the  presentation.

Flavor Elements:
Presti's filling has a hint of lemon.  It added an unexpected element of brightness.   And the shell held up well in spite of the pre-fill.  Corbo's filling is creamy, lightly sweet and has  mini chocolate chips in it.  This went well with the chocolate dipped shell.  The shell was crisp and light.

When I had the first bite of the Presti's cannoli, I initially thought it was a poor relative of the Corbo's version.  Additional tastings of the filling on it's own made me appreciate the slight tang of the lemon.  My final conclusion is that it is a really tasty, just different, version that I would definitely recommend, especially for those who do not like or are allergic to chocolate. The Corbo's version is still my favorite.  Their filling is much creamier and the flavor is outstanding.  The chocolate chips are a welcome addition, especially when ordering the chocolate dipped shells.

In conclusion,either one would be a tasty ending to a wonderful meal in Little Italy.  I recommend having a taste off of your own.  Buon appetito!