Cleveland's jet-setters aren't flying so high these days, what with SARS, war, and the weak economy. But look on the bright side, grounded ones: A ticket-free gustatory tour of Tuscany awaits you at downtown's Sans Souci (24 Public Square in the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel). In addition to his usual menu of Mediterranean fare, chef du cuisine Ben Fambrough has put together a small but mighty collection of Tuscany-inspired lunch and dinner dishes that will be featured through June 1. Among the chef's personal faves is the "open-faced" lobster ravioli, an inside-out starter of crisp-edged pasta triangles, topped with succulent lobster, freshly made ricotta, and artichoke, and dabbed with a savory sage-and-Chianti tomato sauce ($9 lunch/$11 dinner). Fambrough swears the recipe came to him in his sleep, which might explain the dreamy taste.
Fambrough's also a big fan of marjoram, a Mediterranean mainstay he claims is underused in American cooking. To showcase the herb's delicate flavor, he tosses it into a salad of baby greens and toasted pine nuts, which he serves on a bed of artfully arranged zucchini rounds, with tissues of sliced tomato and Pecorino Locatelli tucked in between; the salad's light, elusive dressing also makes use of marjoram, along with shallots and sherry wine vinegar ($7).
Special main-course offerings include dishes such as wood-grilled black grouper ($13 lunch/$21 dinner) and grouper-and-shrimp brochettes, with almond-and-orange-zest-piqued risotto ($12 lunch/ $19 dinner). To complement the food, the menu suggests five different Italian wines, available by the bottle or glass. Call 216-696-5600 for reservations.
Parris in the spring . . . It's the time of year when up pop asparagus, ramps, and Steve Parris, former kitchen magician at the Fulton Bar & Grill and one of Cleveland's greenest chefs. After spending the past year cooking for a private client, the guru of all things fresh, organic, and locally grown has accepted the position of executive chef for Marigold Catering and Café (2800 Euclid Avenue, Suite 150; 216-566-5400); he starts work on May 12. Parris replaces Donna Chriszt, chef-owner of the former Oz Bar & Bistro, who left Marigold over differences with company prez Joan Rosenthal. Chriszt, meanwhile, has moved on to the country-club scene, as executive chef of the Golf and Tennis Club at Walden in Aurora.
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