For 30 years, the property at 1031 Literary Road in the heart of Tremont was known as the Literary Café, or just “the Lit” for short. This past fall, Ross Valenti purchased the building from longtime owners Andy Timithy and Linda Baldizzi, who have operated the business since 1990. Escaping easy description, the eclectic space over the years has featured local artwork, hosted drawing clubs and poetry readings, and was even the site for local public access talk show.
Valenti, a Tremont resident who also operates the Broadview Heights businesses D'Agnese's
, appreciates the building’s history, both architecturally and operationally, and intends to honor it.
“I want to keep the integrity of what it was, because I’m old enough to remember the old Hi and Dry and the Starkweather – the transitional years,” he says, noting a couple neighborhood classics that were drastically changed.
In advance of the spring reopening, Valenti is knee-deep in construction and renovation. The bulk of the improvements are cosmetic, he says, with a storefront renovation chief among them. His goal for the 50-seat café, which will go by the new moniker the Literary Tavern, is to create a casual, comfortable and relevant place for neighbors to enjoy themselves – not very different from the previous 30 years.
“I’m working with a designer to make something that’s contemporary enough, but still kind of classic,” Valenti reports. “Like a modern take on a shot-and-a-beer bar. I live in Tremont, the idea is to have the kind of place I would like to go to. Not a concept-heavy place; it’s not a gastro-tavern, it’s not a wine bar, it’s not a cocktail lounge. It’s just a neighborhood tavern.”
The most significant improvement will come in the form of comestibles. The previous owners began the process of building out a small kitchen but never got around to completing it. Valenti will, and from that tidy kitchen will come unpretentious but good food like small plates, panini, sandwiches, and a few entrees.
“It’s not going to be high-end,” he adds. “More of an everyday neighborhood tavern, which it always was.”
If the enjoyable Cantine offers any clues, guests can look forward to straightforward items like meat and cheese boards, olives, warm focaccia with olive oil, steamed mussels, fried calamari, and steak frites. The operation will be open every day from 11 a.m. to close.
Valenti says that the Literary Tavern is on pace to open in March or April – assuming there are no more surprises.
“I’m taking my time to get things right,” he says. “As it turned out, I’m doing more work than originally intended. It’s a 150-year-old building – the more time I spend working on it, the more I like it. You can see layers and layers of flooring. Once you start peeling back the years and layers of the place, it’s kind of interesting.”