Photo via Bruno's Ristorante, Facebook
Stepping into this cozy neighborhood ristorante – with its wooden bar, linoleum floors, and menu of pizza, pasta, and assorted parmigianas, cacciatores, and marsalas – is like traveling back in time to the days when Italian restaurateurs baked their own breads, made their own pastas, and served it all in charming, intimate spaces. Almost everything on the "full-meal deal" menu is delish. But when it comes to fried calamari and baked lasagna, Bruno's scores among the very best.
2644 W. 41st St., 216-961-7087. $$$
Photo via Carrie Cerino's Ristorante, Facebook
This venerable Italian restaurant features hearty Northern Italian fare, with an expansive menu of made-from-scratch pastas, sauces, breads, and desserts.
8922 Ridge Rd., N. Royalton, 440-237-3434. $$$
Photo via Eddie's Pizzeria Cerino, Facebook
Too often, Italian joints go heavy on the comfort and light on the quality. Not so here where owner Eddie Cerino approaches traditional Italian food less like a grandmother and more like a chef. And thanks to half orders of salad and pasta, diners have control over portion size and price. The same goes for Cerino's Lakewood outpost, which is cozy, busy, and slings a perfect menu of Italian favorites that don't skimp on quality.
7305 Broadview Rd., Seven Hills, 216-236-6007. $$-$$$
Photo via Flour, Facebook
After 25 years in Little Italy, Paul Minnillo has moved to the suburbs with this contemporary restaurant serving modern regional Italian cuisine. The far-ranging menu includes small-plate-style antipasti and creative greens, as well as silken pastas and hearty entrées. A wood-fired pizza oven turns out killer Neapolitan-style pies. A deep Italian wine list and a patio round out this East Side gem.
34205 Chagrin Blvd., Moreland Hills, 216-464-3700. $$$
Photo via Lesley Balla, Instagram
Every college campus needs a nearby spot like Mama Santa's, with its retro vibe, cheap wine, and stunningly inexpensive Italian eats. Thin, greaseless, crisp-crusted pizza is the specialty of the casa; when you and the gang can score a 15-incher for less than 10 bucks, who cares if there's a wait for a table?
12305 Mayfield Rd., 216-421-2159. $-$$
Photo via D.C. Pasta Co., Facebook
Chef Dante Boccuzzi's third Cleveland restaurant, D.C. makes high-quality, house-made pastas fun and affordable. Sold by portion size – taste, appetizer, or main – the various combinations can be mixed and matched to create a wide-ranging feast. The rest of the menu is equally accessible, with sections for cured meats, Italian cheeses, marinated veggies, meatballs, entrées – even olives. Top it all off with 25 bottles of Italian wine priced south of $25 and you have the makings of an affordable Italian banquet.
12214 Pearl Rd., Strongsville, 440-238-8500. $$-$$$
Photo via Jessica Hurd, Instagram
A fine choice for families, this bright, contemporary pizza parlor offers freshly made pies, wholesome salads and a concise selection of beer and wine, including eight microbrews on draft. Friendly staffers take small fry in stride, and while Mom and Dad unwind, the kiddies can safely watch the chefs at work from behind a glass partition.
2194 Lee Rd., Cleveland Hts., 216-321-7355. $$
Photo via Maxi's, Facebook
Like an old friend, Maxi's is always there when you need her. For 15 years, this romantic Little Italy gem has been keeping neighbors and visitors happy the easy way: by dishing up consistently delicious plates of soul satisfying Italian foods, namely pastas, pizza and veal-based entrees. Dim, slim and sexy, Maxi's is always the right choice for date night.
12113 Mayfield Rd. 216-421-1500. $$-$$$
Photo via Trentina, Facebook
James Beard-nominated chef Jonathon Sawyer's new Italian restaurant brings sparkling life back to the old Sergio's space in University Circle. The attractive 35-seat restaurant is an ideal setting for the northern Italian-inspired foods that Sawyer and chef Matt Danko are creating. Diners can look forward to creative cocktails, fresh pastas, adventurous tasting menus, and al fresco dining on the restaurant's picturesque front patio.
1902 Ford Dr., 216-421-2900. $$$$
Photo via 'Stino da Napoli, Facebook
"Delicate," "precise," and "beautifully balanced" are just a few of the terms that spring to mind when we recall the preparations at this little gem of an Italian restaurant. While nearly every dish is as close to perfection as any kitchen is likely to come, the ephemeral gnocchi, the fork-tender veal, and the homemade desserts are so exactly right, they nearly make us weep.
19070 Old Detroit Rd., Rocky River, 440-331-3944. $$$
Photo via mayomick, Instagram
Boasting one of the very few wood-burning ovens in town, Vero turns out some of the most authentic Neapolitan-style pizza around. Owner Marc-Aurele Buholzer inherited the oven – and the space – from the previous tenant, La Gelateria. The gelato is the same, but the pizza is much improved. An airy, chewy edge blistered with char gives way to a thin, crisp inner crust supporting a few choice ingredients. These pies are meant to be enjoyed fresh from the oven.
12421 Cedar Rd., Cleveland Heights, 216-229-8383. $$
Photo via Angelo's Pizza, Facebook
There are pizzas. And then there are Angelo's pizzas: plump, fragrant works of art, from the thick provolone topping all the way down to the rich, yeasty crust. The chicken club is good, the veggie is great and the creamy, cheesy seafood pizza, topped with lobster cream, shrimp, crabmeat and fresh spinach, is the stuff of which our dreams are made. Salads, sandwiches, wings, a few pasta platters and a worthwhile beer list round out the menu at this good-looking spot.
13715 Madison Ave., Lakewood, 216-221-0440. $$
Photo via Morgan McPhilliamy, Instagram
A longtime neighborhood favorite, D'Agnese's serves up authentic and comforting Italian with an emphasis on veal, chicken, seafood and pasta. And at its current new(ish) location after 20 years in business, it continues to dazzle for all occasions, be it a casual dinner or date or a festive celebration.
1100 W. Royalton Rd. 440-237-7372. $$
Photo via Marotta's, Facebook
We've seen hallways bigger than this tiny Italian restaurant, but the intimate ambiance and robust food are ample compensation for the lack of elbow room. The small menu has the usual pasta, chicken, and veal dishes, all well-prepared and flavorful. And the hand-tossed, stone-baked pizzas are notable for their crisp, almost wafer-thin crusts. Impressive all-Italian wine list.
2289 Lee Rd., Cleveland Hts., 216-932-9264. $$$
Photo via Osteria di Valerio & Al, Facebook
The anonymous phrasemaker who said "Good things come in small packages" surely didn't have this tiny Italian restaurant in mind, but he could have: The Warehouse District's smallest upscale dining room more than compensates with big quotas of flavor and style.
408 W. St. Clair Ave., 216-685-9490. $$$
Photo via Ristorante Stella Mia, Facebook
We're blessed in Northeast Ohio with a cornucopia of beloved neighborhood Italian gems, but this Westlake newcomer has quickly risen to the top of its local bracket by upping every aspect of the ristorante game. Setting, food and service here combine to form the kind of lasting memories that used to be commonplace. Classics like stuffed peppers, mussels in wine sauce, eggplant parmesan, spaghetti with meatballs, veal satimbocca and osso bucco all hit the table with an impressive splash.
28751 Center Ridge Rd., Westlake, 440-250-2143. $$
Photo via Nicole D., Foursquare
A popular lunch stop for downtown's white-collar crew, Porcelli's serves a simple but sophisticated menu of salads, sandwiches, and pastas, including gnocchi with pesto cream and penne with chicken, spinach, and walnuts. Prices are reasonable, particularly by downtown standards, and speedy service will get you back to the office before Scrooge even knows you've ducked out.
1852 E. 6th St., 216-574-2270. $$