Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Marotta's - Cleveland Heights, OH


NancyH
 Share

Recommended Posts

It was a tough choice - post this here or in Restaurant Life? I think we'll start here, but move to RL if we get into a discussion of different styles of pizza.

I am a transplanted New Yorker. I grew up on Long Island and went to school in NYC, then lived in Montclair NJ (very near NYC) for six years, before I moved to Cleveland. When my husband Bob (livelong Clevelander) and I dated long-distance for five years, I told him I could not consider moving to Cleveland unless it had two things: a good Brewpub and a Chinatown. Well, Cleveland has an awesome brewpub (Great Lakes Brewing Co.) and a small but adequate Chinatown. So, it was I who made the move so we could wed.

What I neglected to consider in moving 500 miles across the country was the availability of pizza. No, not chewy dough that rides a conveyor belt so toppings can meld (which I refer to as "Easy Bake Oven Pizza"), or round objects pressed into a metal pan before being baked into tastelessness - I mean pizza.

My first culture shock after moving to Cleveland was the realization that almost no place sells pizza "by the slice" - a staple of my diet in NY. The discovery that pizza dough here is not thinly stretched, nor permitted to make contact with the bottom of a real pizza oven, left me very homesick. Almost twelve years later, I have an unspoken compact with my parents, that our first meal home when we visit needs to be pizza.

I did find two Cleveland-area restaurants that served the kind of pizza I craved - Vincenza's in Bedford and Vincenza's Downtown. Unfortunately, the one in Bedford closed serveral years ago, and the one Downtown is only open for lunch, only during the week - and I don't work downtown or get there for lunch often anymore. So, I have craved. For a while, I made do with a NY-based chain that had an outlet at Beachwood Place Mall - Famaglia's Famous. They claimed to import their water from NY to get the dough just so, and whether that made a difference or not, the fellow who worked the dough definitely knew what he was doing, and had the proper implements (and ovens) to do it with. Famaglia's went downhill after that magical pizza maker left, and it closed with the recent food court renovations, replaced by another chain that just isn't as good.

So - what was a displaced New York-pizza loving New Yorker to do? I was told of two places in the Cleveland Area that might satisfy my craving - Capri Pizza, in Middlebugh Hts. on the Westside, and Marotta's, in Cleveland Heights on the Eastside. Since I live on the Eastside, Capri is still on the "to try" list. And Marotta's didn't make it easy: they are open only for dinner M-Sat and take no reservations for a very small dining room. But yesterday, four of us finally made it to Marotta's - and I can't wait to go back!

Marotta's wants to be a complete trattoria, rather than a mere pizzaria; I can't comment on the non-pizza entrees because we didn't have any (although Bob did waver for a moment on his pizza vow when the server described a dinner special of Berkshire Pork Chop with House Made Lamb Sausage). They do have a huge, reasonably priced wine list, some interesting beer choices, and a very small cocktail bar (as in four seats and not that many more bottles). The dining room is quite small, and was completely filled by 8pm on a Thursday, with more customers being seated on a small patio in the back.

We started with bread - kind of strange, since we planned to get pizza - but it was so delicious that we were glad to have the opportunity to sample it. The Olive Oil it was served with was rich and exquisite in flavor.

For appetizer, we ordered the calamari:

gallery_21337_4951_149380.jpg

Honestly, though the presentation with fresh tomato was nice, we all agreed that the calamari was kind of ordinary, and a little chewy.

We also tried one of the salad "specials" - a two-beet salad over endive, with candied pecans, Glouster Cheese and a Blood Orange Vinagrette. Though Bob and I found the cheese a little to "bleu" for our palates, torakris happily took it off our hands, and left us with a plate of sheer sweet goodness:

gallery_21337_4951_99240.jpg

Closeup of the beets, pecans and cheese:

gallery_21337_4951_56865.jpg

This was a big winner!

The reason we were there, however, was the pizza! Even though we knew it would be way too much food, we each ordered a 14" pie (besides, it's not a real pizza if you can't have it cold for breakfast the next day). The server wisely split each pie in half to serve them, so two pizza pans came to the table with 4 slices of each type of pie.

First, for me, the Traditionale - the basic tomato sauce and shredded mozzerella pizza I have missed so much:

gallery_21337_4951_21368.jpg

It was a beautiful thing. Thin and crispy, with a chewy, yet crunchy bite and just the right amount of sauce, cheese and seasoning - I was in Pizza Nirvana. The underside had just the right amount of texture and flavor from resting on the oven floor. To understand the texture compared to "regular Cleveland Pizza" - it was like the difference between a bagel-store bagel and a "bagel" from Panera Bread Co. Marotta's definitely gets my approval for satisfaction of NY Pizza Craving.

Bob got the same pizza as I, but topped it with mushrooms and sausage. I had sat at the bar when I first arrived, and watched the pizza maker in action - he had put a thick pillow of mushrooms on the pizza I watched him make. Since I do NOT eat mushrooms, I satisfied myself with just tasting the sausage - it tasted very fresh, with just the right amount of pepper. That is the sausage, thinly shaved, on top of the pizza; the mushrooms are underneath.

gallery_21337_4951_159357.jpg

Kris opted for the Molto Marotta: pesto, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, tomatoes, spinach and mozzarella. Now, even with a NY style pizza, this much vegetation can turn a great crust to mush. But the proof was in the eating, and this pie was delicious:

gallery_21337_4951_74384.jpg

The last pie I tasted was a "modified" Margherita, which started with

diced plum tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil and extra virgin olive oil, and added tomato sauce and Portobello Mushrooms (at least those are large enough to eat around!):

gallery_21337_4951_3114.jpg

We all enjoyed it. And Kris and I are going to do a comparison with Vincenza's next week (Vincenza's is more "by the slice" pizza - larger, heavier slices); heck, we may even get to Capri before she leaves for Japan!

Now, if only I could find a great Knish in Cleveland . . . .

Edited by NancyH (log)

"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" 

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oh wow, yummy. I miss NY style pizza a lot!! I was born in NY, but grew up in Ft. Lauderdale where every other pizza place is NY style.

I wish I would have known about this place a few short weeks ago.

Robin and I coming up for a weekend in October so this will definitely be on the list!!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great pics, Nancy! As another displaced New Yorker, I think I've found my new computer wallpaper -- the first pizza slice.

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have never been to New York and have never tasted New York pizza, but the pizza at Marotta's was very good!

I tasted a bit of them all and am not sure which one I would pick as my favorite. I really loved the shaved sausage on Bob's though, I could have eaten a whole plate of just the sausage...

The beet salad was also wonderful and I was the lucky recipient of all the "extra" blue cheese.

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Friends of ours order Marotta's for carry out often and they order it 1/2 baked and then finish it on a pizza stone at home so it perfectly warm and crisp.

It is on our list of must-try!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Your wish was my command, Sheb! So, last night, we joined Mr. and Mrs. Sheb and their beautiful twins at Marotta's for another dose of pizza.

We started with salads. The Beet Salad is already pictured, above, but the Cesear and House Salads were also wonderful - no food-service bagged greens here:

gallery_21337_4951_190434.jpg

gallery_21337_4951_34007.jpg

Sheb and I each ordered a large-size pizza - she for leftovers, me to see how the bigger slice would fold and handle. (And - ok - for leftovers.) Sheb ordered plain, I ordered half plain, half sausage because Bob insisted on ruining his pizza with mushrooms again. Bill ordered the Papperdelle, dressed with a combination of Veal, Pork and Beef that had marinated in the sauce. The pasta was exquisitely fresh and perfectly cooked and the sauce was as good as it looks:

gallery_21337_4951_52938.jpg

Now, this is a pizza:

gallery_21337_4951_139064.jpg

After salad and a taste of Bill's pasta, this one slice did me in:

gallery_21337_4951_105080.jpg

And finally, a shot of the young man responsible for this wonderful pizza, and one of his creations in progress:

gallery_21337_4951_47870.jpg

"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" 

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am now officially in full pizza mode. After consuming a cold leftover slice of Marotta's cheese pizza for breakfast, I decided to have a slice at Issi's for lunch, so I could get a photograph of it. Issi's is a very interesting place, and the only place I know of in Cleveland, outside Little Italy, Downtown, and the malls, that serves pizza by the slice. Issi's is located at 14431 Cedar Road in S. Euclid (intersection with Green Road). Issi's is a Kosher Dairy restaurant, therefore there are no meat toppings. What is extraordinary about them, in my opinion, is that they get a thin, chewy crust out of a broad, squat conveyor belt oven. Though the bottom of the crust doesn't get the same taste and texture that it does from sitting on the floor of a traditional pizza oven, it is still very good.

Issi is from Israel. He makes his own dough and sauce, and the pizza is very close to NY style. My only complaint today was that they cut the slice in half - Clevelanders seem kind of impaired about picking up pizza with their hands and folding it (next week, I'll post a photo of Cleveland pizza, for those of you who don't know what I'm talking about).

It was a tasty lunch, though I need to tell them to leave the slice in one piece next time!

gallery_21337_4951_42899.jpg

Tomorrow - we taste-test and photograph Vincenza's in downtown Cleveland!

"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" 

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes! As Nancy said, my wish was her command.

What an excellent meal. The pizza was so good, but hubby's pasta dish was out of this world. The depth of flavor in the sauce was excellent.

The wine we had was a great companion to the pizza, it was a blend of sangiovese and colorino, the name escapes me at the moment and it was a special so it is not on the website.

I did notice on their site that they have grappa. Nice after dinner treat for next time

:laugh:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In our continuing quest for the true NY Pizza experience here in Cleveland, three of us lunched at Vincenza's, located in the Colonial Arcade on Prospect Avenue in Cleveland. Vincenza's moved from the Old Arcade to the Colonial during the renovation of the Old Arcade about 7 years ago (which was when they closed their Bedford location). Instead of having two floors, they are now on one level, but they still have two separate feeding stations. The north end features pastas and other plated entrees. The southern end contains the pizzeria and a salad/sub line.

When we arrived at a few minutes past 1pm, the north end of the place was pretty empty, but the line for pizza stretched almost halfway through the place. We joined the line at about 1:20pm and there was still a good crowd, though it was starting to thin as the lunch period drew closer to a close.

Even the service counter at Vincenza's is reminiscent of the NY experience, as a row of different types of pies sits waiting to tempt the customer:

gallery_21337_4990_23122.jpg

gallery_21337_4990_13404.jpg

Yes, the stuffed pizza, the "Chicago" Style pizzas, and even the "white-broccoli" Neapolitan pies look good - but better are the Sicilian style that follows. The ultimate, for me anyway, is the row of perfectly round, thinly crusted Neapolitan style pies that line the top right of the counter:

gallery_21337_4990_71878.jpg

Vincenza's is also the only place that I know of in Cleveland that has the appropriate condiments for a NY style pizza - Oregano, Granulated Garlic, Hot Red Pepper Flakes, and Grated Cheese (I never apply the cheese, but I do see it in NY so someone must). Famiglia's Famous also had these condiments, but of course they are no longer in Cleveland.

gallery_21337_4990_14733.jpg

Our selections today ranged from the most simple to the sublime. In the latter category, my companions sampled a "white" (no sauce) slice topped with chopped tomato and Anchovies:

gallery_21337_4990_6774.jpg

They pronounced it fabulous.

Kris went for the most basic - the humble cheese slice:

gallery_21337_4990_91612.jpg

I went in between - one slice of plain Neapolitan with Meatball (when I order this in most Cleveland pizza shops, people look at me like I have three heads, because no one orders pizza with meatball in Cleveland. In fact, I once ordered it that way from Guiseppe's, which has several locations but isn't quite a chain. Even though they have meatballs on their menu, they refused to put any on my pizza, saying that there was no way to ring it up that way on the cash register). Note how thin this slice is:

gallery_21337_4990_78021.jpg

gallery_21337_4990_97823.jpg

Even though it is thin, it is moist and tender. More moist and tender is the Sicilian style, which I also ordered and shared with the table:

gallery_21337_4990_43981.jpg

gallery_21337_4990_8545.jpg

Though the Siciallian looks more like Cleveland pizza, my companions agreed it was quite different in taste and texture. I love this style too - but I'll always take the thin and round slice first!

So, which place wins the NY-Pizza in Cleveland Challenge? I think this project definitely requires additional research . . . .

Edited by NancyH (log)

"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" 

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Marotta's wants to be a complete trattoria, rather than a mere pizzaria; I can't comment on the non-pizza entrees because we didn't have any (although Bob did waver for a moment on his pizza vow when the server described a dinner special of Berkshire Pork Chop with House Made Lamb Sausage).  They do have a huge, reasonably priced wine list, some interesting beer choices, and a very small cocktail bar (as in four seats and not that many more bottles).  The dining room is quite small, and was completely filled by 8pm on a Thursday, with more customers being seated on a small patio in the back.

The reason we were there, however, was the pizza!  Even though we knew it would be way too much food, we each ordered a 14" pie (besides, it's not a real pizza if you can't have it cold for breakfast the next day).  The server wisely split each pie in half to serve them, so two pizza pans came to the table with 4 slices of each type of pie.

First, for me, the Traditionale - the basic tomato sauce and shredded mozzerella pizza I have missed so much:

It was a beautiful thing.  Thin and crispy, with a chewy, yet crunchy bite and just the right amount of sauce, cheese and seasoning - I was in Pizza Nirvana.  The underside had just the right amount of texture and flavor from resting on the oven floor.  To understand the texture compared to "regular Cleveland Pizza" - it was like the difference between a bagel-store bagel and a "bagel" from Panera Bread Co.  Marotta's definitely gets my approval for satisfaction of NY Pizza Craving.

Bob got the same pizza as I, but topped it with mushrooms and sausage.  I had sat at the bar when I first arrived, and watched the pizza maker in action - he had put a thick pillow of mushrooms on the pizza I watched him make.  Since I do NOT eat mushrooms, I satisfied myself with just tasting the sausage - it tasted very fresh, with just the right amount of pepper.  That is the sausage, thinly shaved, on top of the pizza; the mushrooms are underneath.

Kris opted for the Molto Marotta: pesto, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, tomatoes, spinach and mozzarella.  Now, even with a NY style pizza, this much vegetation can turn a great crust to mush.  But the proof was in the eating, and this pie was delicious:

The last pie I tasted was a "modified" Margherita, which started with

diced plum tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil and extra virgin olive oil, and added tomato sauce and Portobello Mushrooms (at least those are large enough to eat around!):

We all enjoyed it.  And Kris and I are going to do a comparison with Vincenza's next week (Vincenza's is more "by the slice" pizza - larger, heavier slices); heck, we may even get to Capri before she leaves for Japan!

Now, if only I could find a great Knish in Cleveland . . . .

Nancy thanks for sharing this restaurant. We went last night for pizza and it was delicious. I did not grow up in NY but lived for a few years in Nice on the French / Italian border and the Marotta's pizza reminded me of the kind you eat there (we had a "Margherita". The ingredients were really fresh, especially the tomatoes and herbs, and it made a huge difference.

Edited by ricain (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've just returned from NY, where I took the opportunity to photograph some "real" NY pizza. As per usual, dinner my first night visiting home was a Meatball Pizza, from Chef's of East Northport:

gallery_21337_4951_124167.jpg

gallery_21337_4951_135326.jpg

Yum - that pizza did not last long!

On Saturday, we attended a daylong Mexican Fiesta at Alley Pond Park in Queens. After a long day of partying, we repaired to Gino's Pizza, on Springfield Boulevard right off the LIE, to rest up and have a bite. We ordered a pizza "Nonna" - white pizza with fresh tomato and garlic:

gallery_21337_4951_174670.jpg

We also ordered a cheese calzone - bringing up another Cleveland pizza-peeve: Why doesn't any pizza place in Cleveland put Ricotta Cheese in their calzone? My law partner Anna, whose parents are from Italy, cannot understand this either. Gino's calzone was a thing of beauty - and it tasted very good, too:

gallery_21337_4951_35266.jpg

Next up, to bring this thread completely around, will be photos of a "Cleveland style" pizza - probably next week.

Oh - and as long as I'm b*tching about things I can't readily get in Cleveland - behold richly fatty, thinly sliced belly lox:

gallery_21337_4951_132013.jpg

That didn't last very long, either. As we say in Cleveland - oh well!

"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" 

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

The quest has not yet ended. Tino27 and I lunched at Vincinato in Lyndhurst earlier this week, and he took shots of the "Cleveland Pizza" we enjoyed. Vincinato makes an excellent example of Cleveland Pizza, probably in part because they have a real pizza oven and not one of those conveyor belt things.

Unfortunately, Tino was not happy with the quality of his pictures, so he hasn't yet posted them - I may need to do a repeat.

In the meantime - there is a new pizza game in town in Cleveland - at Michael Symon's Lolita in Tremont! Lolita has just debuted it's fall menu, which is a return to smaller plates, smaller prices, Greek influenced food and - best of all - Neapolitan Style Pizza!

Chef Matt and Pastry Chef Cory are doing the Verace Pizza Napolitana certification training, which they will complete in September, and they are following the AVPN standards. The result is amazingly thin crusted, beautifully topped pizzas. We enjoyed a schmorgasboard of them last night - you can see our reports and photos Starting here.

"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" 

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 year later...

Yes, it has taken over a year for me to "finish" this thread. Tom never posted his Vicinato pictures (which he wasn't happy with) and I don't eat Cleveland style pizza that often. However, last week, I joined my law partners Anna and Jamie, their 2 young children, and Jamie's dad (and part-time tax lawyer in our office) Bernie for pizza at Tasty Pizza, which is across the street from Vicinato and which makes a very decent Cleveland style pizza (though it does cook in an "easy bake" conveyor belt oven).

Jamie ordered a couple of pizzas before we got there, and they were served shortly after we arrived. Jamie had forgotten that a "large" at Tasty's is really a Medium (the owner stopped by our table, and explained that the sizing was a "family thing" that had been passed down to him and he could not change it), so we ordered a half Pepperoni, half Meatball when we sat down, thinking we didn't have enough. We didn't really need it, but at least it gave me a photo opportunity I didn't initially have a prayer for with two under-10-year-olds (and several very hungry adults) in the party:

gallery_21337_4951_93135.jpg

Note that the pepperoni is under the cheese.

gallery_21337_4951_174859.jpg

gallery_21337_4990_10133.jpg

I appreciate that Tasty's will put meatball on the pizza, even though it isn't on their menu.

I still prefer NY style pizza to Cleveland style, and I understand there are a couple of West Side places I need to inspect! In the meantime, I will settle for Marotta's, Vincenza's and the fabulous pizzas, not NY style, but nevertheless succulent, at Lolita and Bar Cento.

"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" 

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...