Dante – Cleveland, OH

I wasn’t thrilled to be away from home on my birthday, but a scheduled dinner with clients at Dante in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland made it one for the ages!  Tucked into an old bank on a quiet street, this beautiful little spot is perfect for a special night, a business dinner or everyday night out.  The warm atmosphere is cozy and comfortable with plenty of seating and a short bar for cocktails and starters.

Being with a group, we were luck to sample a few things to start our evening.  The goat cheese tartlets with cranberry orange chutney were creamy and rich with the right balance of sweet.  Crispy calamari and shrimp were given a little kick tossed with spicy mayo.  It was a good take on traditional calamari you might find anywhere else.  The highlight was absolutely the charcuterie plate.  A huge portion of house-made salumi, terrine, mortadella, duck confit and chicken liver pate was accompanied by bacon onion jam and various chutneys and fruit.  You can take a look at their curing room in the old vault and see Chef Dante’s passion in the variety and beauty of his charcuterie.

The well-curated menu has a lovely selection of vegetables, meats, pasta and seafood.  Portion sizes are adjustable based on your preference, but we stuck to dinner portions for tonight.  Both the beef cheek and ribeye were beautifully cooked and came dressed with vegetables.  The salmon was a work of art worthy of praise for taste and presentation.  The creamy broccoli risotto was also noted as delicious.  My dinner was the venison osso bucco with celery root and an apple donut (apple ring battered and deep fried).  It was rich, tender and a wonderful balance of flavor and texture.  You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone cook venison better.


Overall, it was a perfect dinner in every way.  With an ample wine list, craft cocktails and great beer selection (try the Italian peppercorn IPA) there is plenty to keep your interest throughout the night.  The friendly and knowledgeable staff also made it a great night out.  Compliments to Chef Dante Boccuzzi for creating this gem in Tremont.  And thank you for making my “birthday dinner” (that no one knew about) really special!  You can find out more about the location and view their full menu at dantetremont.com.


Peanut Butter Buckeyes

If you’re from Ohio, you’ve likely had the peanut buttery goodness of BUCKEYES!!  Shaped like the seed from our state tree, these namesake treats are a hit for the holidays or any time of the year.  You’ll find them at almost any store in Ohio that sells confections and definitely at Ohio State football tailgates!  Good news is, you don’t have to be an OSU fan or from Ohio to love the perfect combination of peanut butter and chocolate – just ask all of our Minnesota friends who clamored for a treat box of Buckeyes around the holidays.

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  • 18 Ounces Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 1 Lb. Powdered Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Margarine
  • 12 Ounces Semisweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1/2 Ounce Parafin Wax


  • Using a stand mixer (you’ll need a heavy duty one) with a dough hook attachment, cream together peanut butter and margarine until smooth.
  • Add powdered sugar a little at a time and mix on low until thoroughly combined.
  • Roll into one inch balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Place balls in freezer for 15 minutes to harden.
  • While peanut butter balls are in the freezer, use a double boiler (or a metal bowl over a pot of simmering water) to melt chocolate chips and wax together.
  • Remove balls from freezer.  Using a toothpick, pierce each ball and dip 3/4 of the way into chocolate/wax mixture.  Place on parchment paper.  Chill a full tray in the freezer again for 10 minutes or until chocolate is set.
  • Keep stored in an airtight container.  I like to keep them in the fridge, but they’re fine at room temperature too.

There’s little practice involved in the dipping process, but overall these are really easy to make.  A good tip is to use a small bowl or boiler for the chocolate as you want the chocolate to be deep enough to dip into.  You can also make 1 1/2 of the chocolate/wax mixture to make it easier.  We like to then use the excess chocolate to dip pretzels in.  Or try mixing in enough corn flakes to coat them thoroughly.  Drop in small spoonfuls on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and top with sea salt flakes – wow are those good!  Try the buckeyes, share with your family and friends and make it a favorite holiday tradition like it is for us.  Dig in!!

SuperChef’s – Gahanna, OH

Sunday morning screams for amazing breakfast or brunch!  And when we’re not at home, it’s always fun to check out somewhere new and inventive.  On our recent trip to the Columbus, OH area for some Christmas shopping, we decided to check out SuperChef’s Breakfast & More in Gahanna.  Located just east of the I-270 loop, this strip mall eatery did not disappoint.  I’ll admit the exterior with bright graphics and large pictures of food reminded me of an oversized Chinese menu in a mall food court, but it’s all part of the schtick for this comics-themed brunch spot.

A lively place with plenty of seating packed into a tight spot, there is an overabundance of energy in the morning with the perfect backdrop of conversation and the aromas of coffee and syrup.  A large wall in the rear of the restaurant is covered with comic book covers and characters which were complimented by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles t-shirts the staff were wearing.  After a short wait we perused the menu choices with amazing “bam-kapow” comic book takes on traditional breakfast fare.  Think of green waffles with bacon, egg and cheese – that’s “The Hulk”.

We sipped strong coffee and then dug into our choices, all of which were really good.  Breakfast pizza was a thin chewy crust with eggs, cheese, bacon, house-made sausage, tomato and parsley.  I had a tasty croissant sandwich made with sausage (a spicy chorizo-like breakfast patty), eggs, cheese and mustard vinaigrette dressed greens.  What a perfect addition to cut through the fatty richness of the rest of the sandwich!  The omelets were hefty and full of fresh ingredients.  Most dishes are served with chunky hash browns browned with topped with a dollop of spicy butter – I know, genius idea!


With another location in downtown Columbus, I would recommend trying this place out for a great brunch any day of the week.  The waffle and pancake combinations looked ridiculous – wings & waffles or blueberry pancakes with lemon buttercream are just a few of the choices!  Add those choices to a great cup of strong coffee and really good service and you’ll see why there was a wait to get in.  You can read their story and check out the breakfast and lunch menus at mysuperchefs.com.  Dig in!!

Bella’s Restaurant – Loveland, OH

New development in a small older downtown is often met with a lot of resistance.  When a new retail/residential complex came to Loveland last year, we were hopeful that there would be some great benefits to all the construction and mayhem – Bella’s was it!  Situated in the “Sweetheart of Ohio”, this new downtown Loveland Italian eatery is a block from the Bike Trail and on the first level of the new Loveland Station development.  With indoor and outdoor seating, along with an ample outside covered bar, there’s an atmosphere to please everyone.  The modern and simple interior is comfortable and fairly casual.  You could easily stop in while running errands in shorts and a t-shirt or dress it up a bit and enjoy a night out.  Either way, you’ll love the food and great selection of wine and beers.

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There was a short wait on a Tuesday night – encouraging for a new place.  We selected a glass of wine and one of the 20 beers on tap and were seated within 15 minutes.  There’s a great selection of traditional Italian appetizers – nothing out of the ordinary, but plenty of choices.  We started with Stuffed Mushrooms which were filled with sausage and provolone and served on their house-made marinara.  They were perfect bites, had just the right amount of stuffing and perfectly complimented by the sweet acidity of their house red sauce.


The selection of entrees varies from a selection of homemade pastas, traditional meats, sandwiches and a a daily special.  Everything coming from the kitchen looked delicious.  Although food wasn’t coming out at a fast pace, I’m sure they’re still adjusting in their opening weeks.  We ordered the Fettucini Alfredo with Shrimp and the Chicken Saltimbocca excited to try some classics from Italy.  As expected, it took quite some time to get our food, but the service was good and the atmosphere relaxing for conversation and drinks.  My wife loved the Saltimbocca which was served on top of creamy polenta.  It was juicy, salty, caper-y and very good.  The polenta was a little stiff, but had good flavor.  Overall a very solid dish.  My fettucini was fresh with beautifully made pasta and a rich alfredo.  It was a little heavy on the butter, but overall rich and creamy.  Perfectly pink tender shrimp were abundant and delicious as well.

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If you’re in the area and looking for something beyond chain Italian restaurants, I highly recommend coming here.  They’re figuring some things out still, but I’m confident this place will get better and better.  Stop by and sit at the outside bar for a few small plates and cocktails or plan a dinner out with friends.  Currently only serving dinner, I hope they open for lunch hours soon as well.  There’s something for everyone at this new local hotspot though – so don’t delay getting here!  I’m excited and optimistic for their success – read more about them and view their menu at bellasloveland.com.