Thursday, April 17, 2008

In Lakewood, it's out with old Venezia, in with new cafe

Posted By on Thu, Apr 17, 2008 at 9:00 AM

If you need any proof that “quirky” doesn’t cut it in Cleveland, consider the imminent demise of Venezia, chef Moha Orchid’s delicious, but determinedly unconventional, little restaurant in Lakewood. The Moroccan-born, Parisian-trained Orchid made quite a splash in the Big Apple before deciding to move to Cleveland. Once here, he quickly developed a following at his popular, if short-lived, Galleria lunch spot, Soup & Stew. Then in the fall of 2006, he resurfaced with Venezia, a modest, moderately priced restaurant with a menu of beautifully prepared and presented Italian foods and pizzas. ... The eats have always been delicious. On the other hand, occasional operational issues have been admittedly off-putting. Orchid’s kitchen, for instance, has been strictly a one-man show, meaning long waits for meals weren’t uncommon. Service, too, could be a little iffy. And we know of at least one instance when the chef simply didn’t show up until after opening time, bogged down as he was with a catering gig. It’s the kind of unconventionality that might have created a buzz in some cities. But among practical Greater Clevelanders, it’s been mainly a cause for consternation. In any case, for those and whatever other reasons, the place just never caught on. (For more on the restaurant’s ups and downs, read our review here.) So now, Orchid is finally throwing in the towel. Last we heard, he was planning to keep the restaurant open until around the end of April. However, no one was answering Venezia’s phone last night – so if you plan to make a final “good bye” visit, a backup plan might be wise. As for his future, Orchid says he has been considering job possibilities in both Paris, and New Haven, Conn. Without a doubt, he’s a first-rate chef and, quirkiness notwithstanding, we hate to see him go. At least the space won’t be empty for long. Assuming negotiations wrap up smoothly, Jay Leitson, owner of Café 56 in Mayfield Hts., will be taking it over this summer, for what he calls “a unique concept,” with a menu focused on all-natural, hormone-free burgers, a collection of microbrews, and an array of wholesome salads, featuring local ingredients. “There’s nothing quite like this in Lakewood now,” says Leitson, “and I think it will be a great addition to the neighborhood.” Barring complications, Leitson expects to launch the new spot in June, with lunch, dinner, and carryout service. --- Elaine T. Cicora Read Elaine Cicora's restaurant reviews, food news, and comprehensive dining guide on the restaurant page at clevescene.com.


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