Say Uncle 

Restaurant resurrectionist Clyde Mart tries his hand at Zio.

The former Old Mission restaurant in Solon has been under the remodeling knife since February and will reopen in early May as Zio Italian Bistro (28554 Miles Road). New owners Clyde and Maureen ("Mo") Mart are behind the transformation, and the 240-seat spot is shaping up to be a real beauty, with European antiques, vintage lighting fixtures, and an embracing deco design. Zio's large menu will include pasta, veal, steaks, and seafood, with a typical entr´e checking in at around $13. Fernando Bogard, former chef at the Oakwood Country Club and the Mentor Harbor Yachting Club, will serve as the man behind the menu. As for the name, it's Italian for "uncle."

At age 70, Clyde Mart has spent nearly a half-century immersed in the Cleveland food industry, first as a meat wholesaler and later as a restaurateur, operating nearly a dozen eateries over 21 years. Besides Zio, Mart's present holdings include Gaylin's Tavern (29425 Chagrin Boulevard) in Pepper Pike and Vito's Italian Grill (395 Aurora Road) in Aurora, and he's carved himself a nice little niche by buying poorly performing properties and bringing them up to snuff. Mart modestly chalks up his success to the unglamorous -- but essential -- qualities of experience and hard work. And although his menus are far from cutting-edge, he has built a reputation by offering reliably good food at moderate prices. At least, that's what we found when we stopped by Vito's one Friday night. Here, Chef Kurt Hardman does good things with obviously fresh ingredients. The lush Mezzuluna ravioli ($10.95), stuffed with spinach, tossed with grilled chicken, and napped with a velvety tomato cream sauce, was delicious, and we loved the unfussy Margherita pizza (small $6.95), with its yeasty crust and topping of aromatic cheeses, basil, garlic, and vine-ripened tomato, all served up in a 120-year-old farmhouse with a comfortable, family-friendly atmosphere.

Tofu and tree bark . . .

are not really the staples of a health-conscious kitchen, as the new dinner menu about to premiere at Solon's Mustard Seed Market Café (6025 Kruse Drive) so tastefully demonstrates. While the Seed's executive chef, Dan Remark, recently turned in his toque to accept another gig, it wasn't before he helped design a spiffy new springtime selection, with vegetarian standards like Tofu Parmesan and Pasta Primavera rubbing elbows with rack of lamb, Surf & Turf, and an eight-ounce filet mignon. Along with the menu expansion have come some heftier price tags, but at least a salad of organic greens is now part of every entr´e. Former Sous Chef Ron Wilcox will be taking Remark's place in the kitchen.

Sounds of the season

The booming bass of a top-down Chevy. The shrieks of kids at play. And the scrape of chairs being pulled out onto the sidewalk. Yup, it's springtime in Cleveland once again. You can celebrate the return of Ol' Sol at Flying Fig (2523 Market Street, 216-241-4243), where staffers are busy dusting off the outdoor furniture in anticipation of sun-kissed days and gentle breezes. To help mark the change of seasons, the Fig will begin serving lunch Tuesday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., as of April 24. And starting April 22, the restaurant will once again be open for Sunday dining, 5 to 9 p.m.


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