Cordelia to Debut in Former Lola Bistro Space on East 4th Street This Spring

click to enlarge Artist's rendering of Cordelia exterior and signage. - Signature Sign Co.
Signature Sign Co.
Artist's rendering of Cordelia exterior and signage.
As devastating a blow as it was when Michael Symon closed Lola on East 4th Street, seeds of optimism soon began to sprout. Last summer, diners were thrilled to learn that the iconic restaurant space had been leased, but details surrounding the new business have remained a closely guarded secret.

Now, partners Andrew Watts and Vinnie Cimino have come out on the record for the first time to discuss Cordelia, a compelling new restaurant that will debut this spring. For 20 years, Watts has been a fixture in the local dining, nightlife and hospitality scene, working in management in dozens of establishments. Cimino, the executive chef and operating partner, worked for Team Sawyer Restaurant Group, including Greenhouse Tavern when that restaurant's chef won the James Beard Award. Cordelia is a homecoming for both Watts and Cimino, as Watts was the general manager of Greenhouse at the same time.

click to enlarge Partners Andrew Watts (left) and Vinnie Cimino - Douglas Trattner
Douglas Trattner
Partners Andrew Watts (left) and Vinnie Cimino

Named for Watts’ great-grandmother, Cordelia aims to be a celebration of Cleveland and the Midwest, with a heightened focus on hospitality – an approach they’re calling “Midwest Nice.”

“She took care of her community and she taught our family what hospitality is and how vital it is to take care of folks,” Watts says of his great-grandmother. “From the onset, it’s going to be very obvious how appreciative we are for every single person coming through the door.”

The property, which dates to the early 1900s, has been stripped to the shell and is being rebuilt. Diners will experience a very different interior from that of Lola when they cross the threshold. Watts and company are going for warm, classic and vintage, with a timeless look designed to put all guests at ease.

The original terrazzo flooring at the entrance, uncovered during construction, will give way to honey-colored wood flooring in the bar area. That wood flooring will lead to elegant penny tile mosaic flooring around the base of the bar, an expanded 20-stool wraparound fixture with a beefy bullnose rail. Behind the bar, Lola’s “wall of wine” was removed and the original brick exposed. Open shelving and a rolling library ladder will complete the classic tavern look.

Also in the bar, a 12-seat communal table will slide in between the pillars.

In the dining room, the 15-foot coffered ceiling has been painted a bright white and new booths and banquettes will be installed on an elevated platform that rings the room, providing even better views of that impressive open kitchen.

“The kitchen for Lola was iconic in its design and layout,” Cimino says. “One of the things that inspired me to be a chef to begin with was this kitchen. It’s always been a favorite of mine in any city.”

Cimino says that the general look and feel of the kitchen, with its classic French-style cooking suite, will remain intact but some equipment will be moved, updated or replaced. The small corner chef’s table will be removed and replaced with a roomy 12-seat dinner counter.

To complement that “Midwest Nice” hospitality, Cimino will be cooking what he calls “Modern Grandma” cuisine.

“Modern Grandma is a term we’ve really been enjoying,” says the chef. “We’ll be a scratch kitchen that does everything by hand. We’ll do our own butchering, do our own baking, fermentation and curing that we’ve built our roots on here in the Midwest. These things are timeless and we’re inspired by heritage and where we come from.”

The seasonal menu will be built for passing around the table and sharing to foster a communal experience. To join the food, there will be a beer, wine and spirits list to satisfy all tastes.

New hydraulic garage-door windows will be installed in the bar area and the second dining room, which will effectively expand the outdoor patio to 55 seats. Indoors, there will be room for 165.

Out front, 1940s-inspired signage with animated lights will artfully point the way to East 4th Street’s newest restaurant, which — along with Blue Agave, Indie and Goma — will bring the "eat street" back to full occupancy.

“It’s still the best address in the city,” Watts says. “This is hallowed ground in Cleveland culinary. What Michael Symon did for national notoriety of Cleveland cuisine... to have the keys to this building, we don’t take that lightly.”

“I cut my teeth and built my career four doors down from here,” adds Cimino, “so to be back here is more than a dream come true – and in our own restaurant and in our own way.”

Follow the progress on Instagram at @CordeliaCLE.
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Douglas Trattner

For 20 years, Douglas Trattner has worked as a full-time freelance writer, editor and author. His work on Michael Symon's "Carnivore," "5 in 5" and “Fix it With Food” have earned him three New York Times Best-Selling Author honors, while his longstanding role as Scene dining editor garnered the award of “Best...
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