Local Sol to Re-Ignite Old Gavi’s Space in Willoughby

For more than 15 years, Gavi’s was the place to go in Willoughby for fine Italian food. But the restaurant closed four years ago and the landmark building, a 100-year-old brick structure originally built as a streetcar powerhouse, has been sitting idle.

That was until about a year ago when the Local Tavern restaurant group began making improvements to the 5,000-square-foot complex. Those improvements have paved the way for the forthcoming opening of Local Sol Kitchen & Cantiki (38257 Glenn Ave.), a Latin American meets Polynesian themed eatery that will seat up 250 people inside and out.

“It’s a completely different space,” says chef-partner Michael Schoen. “It’s such a cool, old brick building.”

Schoen’s partners in the project are John Loxterman, Tim Roush and David Bartulovic, the team behind the small chain of Local Tavern restaurants in Mentor, Willoughby Hills and Parma. They also operate the Painesville eatery fish:bar.

Attendees to Scene’s recent Pig & Whiskey event in Willoughby got a sneak peek at the interior and an early taste of some of the food. The renovated interior is lighter, brighter and more open than ever, especially the front barroom that now opens up to the parking lot thanks to a new garage door. It is just one of three interior bars in the spacious property. The bar program is described as craft beer and cocktail driven – “Polynesian meets the old classics.” Guests will have a choice of a dozen craft beers, wines by the glass, classic cocktails like the Sazerac and Negroni, and Tiki-style drinks like Mai Tais and Fog Cutters.

Schoen, who recently moved back to Northeast Ohio after five years in Chicago, describes his menu as Latin American, but with more emphasis placed on South America than the typical modern Mexican cuisine. “The menu will be intimate, but fun not stuffy with lots of tapas and shared plates,” Schoen says of the 20-item menu.

Snacks include fried malanga and plantain chips with olive relish, house-made tamales and tortillas, yucca frites with garlic aioli, and chorizo and goat cheese croquettes with romesco sauce. Diners can also look forward to housemade queso and house-cured hams down the road.

As for the entrees, Schoen says the short list of items will be “straightforward but done well and with a modern flair.” There will be a “gaucho steak,” a boneless grilled ribeye with chimichurri and poblano potato gratin, and a roasted half chicken.

Local Sol is planning to host two weekends of private dining events in early October and open to the public in the middle of the month.