Thursday, October 6, 2011

Flour Restaurant

When the Baricelli Inn in Little Italy closed, I was very upset because i had (gasp!) never eaten there!  I tried on numerous occasions but for some reason or another, it just never worked out.  So, when I heard that Chef Paul Minnillo with his head chef from the Baricelli, Chris DiLisi, was opening a new restaurant that was close to home, I was elated! Just after eating here, it was announced that Chef DiLisi had moved on and Chef Minnillo would be the head chef at Flour.
Flour is his new, more casual rustic Italian restaurant that is located at the corner of Chagrin and 91 in the plaza that used to house Hyde Park.  I have driven past many times but have resisted going in because I prefer to give a new restaurant some time to settle in before paying them a visit.  Eventually some other reviews made me slightly hesitant to check it out. But when a friend suggested it for dinner, I jumped at the chance to try it for myself.  

While waiting for our fourth friend to arrive, three of us sat at the bar. It gave us a good view of the kitchen and the dining area.  Other reviewers stated that the decor was "cold" but I liked the clean lines and modern vibe.  Another complaint I had heard over and over was that the servers wore plaid shirts. I think that this was originally to emphasis the rustic cuisine and separate this venture from the slightly stuffy Baricelli days. Thankfully those have been replaced by black shirts that more appropriately reflect the decor and the modern vibe.  

I started with a martini that contained lemon vodka, limoncello and basil - it was refreshing and just the right amount of sweet and tart. The basil flavor was subtle and a perfect compliment to the citrus. I noticed that they have a very selective beer list - no Bud Light here! I was liking this place already.

Now, onto the food! Again, some reviewers complained that they couldn't find anything that sounded good on the menu or that portions were small. We found the exact opposite to be true! Our party of four struggled to decide what to order because everything sounded good! We decided to start with the cheese plate and the salumi. These four cheese lovers went with five cheeses so we could get a nice sampling. I was assuming that they would be Baricelli cheeses and was disappointed to learn that they are not. Nonetheless, they were a very tasty assortment imported from Italy that included locatelli (sheep), Brunet (goat), asiago (cow), tavoliere (cow) and bariola (sheep and cow.) I also loved the fruit and nut studded crackers.

The salumi was also outstanding!  The mortadela was a lighter color than you usually see but was very flavorful and loaded with pistachios.  There were two salamis, ham, pickled onions and a spread to round out the plate.    
Napa, wine

My friend "KD" is a very qualified wino so he was in charge of picking out our bottle. As always, he did a stellar job! The Parallel cab was a mouthful but with a smooth finish. I will be looking for this drink again.

We ordered the romaine salad which is a caesar salad with a poached egg on top. I thought the $12 price was high until I saw how big it was. And tasted it. Each salad could easily be split two or even three ways. I normally hate caesar salads because so often the dressing is heavy and the lettuce is wilty, but this one was one of the best I have ever eaten! So fresh tasting and perfectly dressed. One friend also tried the Italian wedding soup and it was delicious; however, it was not like any wedding soup we ever had. The broth was darker and it had more veggies and pasta in it.   

There has been a lot of hype about Flour's pizza oven so sampling the pizza was a must. We decided to try the margherita pizza with an addition of salami and the funghi (shiitake, french horns, shallots taleggio and truffle oil) with an egg. I loved the crust! It was just thick enough, not greasy and was perfectly chewy. It had just enough char and smoke. The mushroom pizza was loaded with mushrooms and I loved the truffle flavor but I kept thinking it needed a little something extra to really make it pop (prosciutto?)  
Cleveland, CLEfood
Funghi pizza with egg
Margherita pizza with salami
Everyone raves about the gnudi so we decided to try a half order. It included pancetta, corn, corn essense and crema. It was delicious but I'm glad we only got a half to share because it was really rich.
We also tried the tagliatelle with bolognese. The sauce was tomatoey and full of meat flavor but not heavy.  

For my entree I decided to try the chargrilled Miller Farm pork chop with polenta and creamed corn. The chop was large, moist and had a nice smoky flavor thanks to the grilling. Neither the creamed corn nor the polenta were overly creamy but they were a welcome change from the typical mashed potatoes that are so often served with pork. 
Pork chop, creamed corn and polenta - this pic doesn't do it justice!
I ended up taking most of my entree home because I wanted to be sure to save room for dessert.  Hot sugared donut holes were the perfect way to end the meal. With four of us fighting over them, there was a perfect amount. I really liked how they were served in a box - this kept them piping hot.  Two honey sauces were served with them for dipping but I would have loved to see something more daring here. I longed for a kicked up creation with some orange or other fruit.
There are many incredible sounding desserts on the menu and I might need to go back just to sample them. Almond panna cotta with a chocolate chip cookie, Ohio berry cobbler with cornbread, sweet corn ice cream and salty caramel popcorn, and salted chocolate brownie with basil ice cream and chocolate Pop Rocks are calling my name.

We had a wonderful time and our meal was fabulous! I'm so glad we tried Flour for ourselves. It's sexy enough for a date but casual enough to just grab a bite to eat on a weeknight. We were pleasantly surprised and I think you will be too.

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