Tavern of Little Italy to Offer Something ‘New and Different’ to Neighborhood

For 80 years, the Mayfield Café served as a private and public watering hole for residents of Little Italy. That legendary slice of life closed five years back, when it became a local barber college. Within a couple months, the building once again will welcome guests when it reopens as the Tavern of Little Italy (12117 Mayfield Rd.).

For the past six months, the 100-plus year old structure has been getting a complete makeover inside and out. The old aluminum siding has been stripped, revealing the original clapboard siding. New windows up and down, including a fold-away glass façade, will open the building up to the neighborhood out front. A pair of garage doors have been installed on the side of the building, turning the slender alleyway into a secluded side patio.

Inside, partner Eric Kennedy shows off the poured concrete bartop, the rustic wood wall coverings and the original tin ceiling. Behind the bar, 14 tap handles will serve up a variety of local craft beers. When all is said and done, the TOLI will accommodate approximately 80 guests on two levels, not counting the side and back patios.

What the Tavern of Little Italy will not be is another Italian restaurant, stresses Kennedy.

“I think it’s always a good time for something new and different as long as you do something good,” explains Kennedy, who is partnering on the project with longtime Little Italy resident Dominic Gogol. “This will be a neighborhood gastropub that will invite a wider Cleveland to experience Little Italy.”

The tavern will provide locals and visitors alike with a casual pub-like environment in which to watch sports, enjoy a craft beer and order some affordable food, a rarity in the neighborhood. To go with those draft beers and large-screen TVs, the menu will offer straightforward but well-made salads, burgers, flatbreads and larger plates.

Look for the Tavern of Little Italy to open in November.