There are many good Italian restaurants in Northeast Ohio, including some chain restaurants that turn out a fine product. But when it comes to Italian dining, nothing beats a chef-driven menu using local ingredients, with dishes homemade from scratch.
Chef Russ Balas at Menaro’s cares about the quality of the meals that come out of his kitchen. That was evident on the occasion of our last visit, when Chef Balas went from table to table in the dining room, assuring himself that guests were satisfied with their meals. Many of the items on the menu at Menaro’s are classic Italian dishes, but Balas adds his own twist to the recipes.
Bruschetta starts with fresh herb focaccia bread, topped with marinated tomato concasse, provolone, fontina and Parmesan cheese, with fresh basil and extra-virgin olive oil ($7.99). Fried calamari is tossed in a buttermilk batter and fried with garlic and Parmesan and served with homemade marinara sauce ($8.99). Eggplant rolatini is an al dente slice of eggplant folded over a filling of herbed ricotta cheese and aged Parmesan, topped with hot, chunky tomato sauce ($9.49). Macaroni and cheese is baked with lobster, fresh basil and a provolone crust ($11.99), and garlic shrimp are tossed in a white wine and butter sauce and served with garlic cheese baguettes ($10.99).
Italian wedding soup is a garlicky, house-made broth with tiny meatballs, mini pasta and fresh greens ($4.99). Side salads are a la carte, and include house Caesar or a chopped salad with onions, crisp prosciutto and Gorgonzola cheese in house vinaigrette ($4.99). Larger salads are a grilled asparagus caprese with balsamic reduction and a grilled chicken Caesar made with anchovies ($11.99).
Spaghetti marinara ($8.99), penne Bolognese ($10.99), linguini carbonara ($12.49) and chicken Alfredo ($13.99) are among the featured pastas. There is also shrimp, crab and asparagus cavatelli ($19.99), scallops, tiger shrimp and mussels in garlic cream sauce over linguini ($20.99) and angel hair aglio y olio with sauteed baby spinach and mushrooms ($11.49).
Eggplant parmigiana is layered with provolone, fontina and Asiago cheese and topped with fresh basil and marinara ($12.99). Veal Menaro is scaloppini topped with shaved prosciutto, asparagus spears and crabmeat, finished with bearnaise butter and served over a potato gratin ($18.99). Chicken Scarpiello is simmered in homemade chicken gravy with fresh basil, Italian sausage, peppers, caramelized onions and peas, and served over herbed risotto ($15.49). Other specialty entrees are grilled salmon over ratatouille ($18.99), prosciutto-wrapped scallops over roasted red pepper risotto ($19.99), eggplant and portobell0 mushroom Napoleon served on spring greens ($12.99), and braised Italian beef, mushrooms, roasted red peppers and spinach over garlic mashed potatoes ($14.99).
Desserts include homemade gelato ($5.49), chocolate chip and mocha cannolis ($4.99), tiramisu ($6.99) and Italian cheesecake with hints of fresh orange and nutmeg, topped with seasonal fruit compote and shaved chocolate ($5.49).
Menaro’s Ristorante, 25048 Sperry Road in Westlake, is open Monday through Thursday from 4 to 10 p.m., Friday from 4 to 11 p.m., Saturday from 3 to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 10 p.m. Reservations are accepted at 440-892-9090. Parties can be accommodated. Major credit cards are honored.