Unique ‘Cockpit’ Puts Dante Diners Behind the Bar for Fun, Food, Booze

First, Dante Boccuzzi unveiled the chef’s table, a very special booth located smack dab in the middle of his Tremont restaurant kitchen. Now, a few fearless guests can take a seat right behind the bar, in a special two-person table affectionately dubbed “The Cockpit.”

Guests who call to reserve the table will have an eagle-eye view of the action at the bar. In addition to watching the bartender mix drinks – and the bar crowd consume them – Cockpit diners might help the bartender make cocktails, enjoy a special tasting menu paired with cocktails, and even play games like the Ring Toss, where they try and hook a bottle of booze.

“We’re calling it a ‘cocktail-experience table,’ but it’s basically a chef’s table behind the bar,” explains Boccuzzi. “We’re trying to build this whole experience around it.”

The idea originated not from Boccuzzi himself, but rather a wise-cracking regular.

“My fiancé and I walked in there one night and there were no bar seats,” says frequent guest Michael Tortora. “We got a little frustrated that there was nowhere to sit and hang out. The bartender, Paul Norris, jokingly asked if he should pull up a few stools behind the bar for us. I said, ‘yeah, you should,’ and we left.

“We were just joking, but apparently they took it seriously,” Tortora adds. “It’s really unique. I’ve been all over the country and can’t recall seeing anything like that.”

To make room for the new liquor loveseat, a beer fridge was removed from the wine cellar immediately behind the bar. They built a small platform so guests would enjoy a nice vantage point of the bar, bartender and bar crowd. The seat is available every night of the week, with two or three turns per night. Obviously, the weekends offer the best entertainment.

One of the first guinea pigs to take a ride in the Cockpit was Will Hollingsworth, bartender-owner of the Spotted Owl bar down the road. Initially, he had zero interest in taking part.

“I thought the idea was totally ridiculous,” he says. “As a bartender I know that you don’t see anything different from being behind the bar than you do sitting at the bar.”

But then he sat back there.

“I ended up having one of the most-fun nights I’ve ever had in the restaurant,” he says. “For me it wasn’t fun because I was watching the bartenders work. For me it was fun to sit back not having to work and just watch the bartender interact with the bar crowd and the bar crowd interact with each other.”

Participants can order a 5-course food and cocktail tasting menu for $95, but they aren’t locked into anything. In fact, they can order anything off the regular menu. Reservations must be made over the phone, not through Open Table.

Rather than feeling like a zoo animal on display for the bar crowd, as one might assume, Hollingsworth says he almost felt invisible.

“You kind of feel like you’re behind two-way glass. They barely notice you.”

Like this story?
SCENE Supporters make it possible to tell the Cleveland stories you won’t find elsewhere.
Become a supporter today.

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...
Scroll to read more Food News articles

Join Cleveland Scene Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.