The recent New York Times article, Cleveland, a City Repurposed, has been on my mind after giving it a quick scan this past week. I love the writer’s suggestion of “what’s old is new again” — and like many other Northeastern Ohioans, it seems Chef Jonathon Sawyer took hold of this way of thinking with the opening of his location, Restaurant Trentina, located in the University Circle building where Sergio’s once was located.
As we were seated promptly for our 8:30 reservation time on Saturday night, we had a few moments to look over the tasting menu for the friends and family preview:
- Primi Assaggio: Crusto di Polenta, Carne Salata alla Trentina, Tyralean Speck, Vegetables from our Larder & Fields
- Caviar + Ciccoli: Sumac, Cucumber and Puffed Pasta
- Crustaceo Crudo: Vintage Ohio Apple and Citrus
- Sable Fish al Cartoccio: Celtuce, Wild Ohio Crown Tipped Coral Mushroom, TNT Larder Yogurt and Fumet
- Edible Candle: 24k Gold Honey, Aged Beef Suet, Crunchy Salt and Fresh Bread
- Pasta alla Chitarra: Ohio Farm Egg
- Pasta Cuscino: Cabbages, Onion, Spicebush and Formaggio Che Cola
- Game Birds: Livers and Madeira
- Beasts Roasted Over Embers
- Primi Dolce: Strawberries, Yogurt and Pistachio
- Dolce: Strudel alla Trentina
- Grazia: Gold Milk Chocolate
The Primi Assaggio course – plus a certain ginger and his matching beer.
Knowing that Trentina is inspired by Northern Italian cuisine, there’s a lot of the “old” in there — from the progression of the courses, to the ingredients used, and so on. But don’t get too attached to what you know about that style of food — Chef Sawyer, executive chef Matt Danko and their team throw your expectations out on to Ford Drive, mixing up the usual with ways with methods you never could have expected. At least I didn’t.
I’ll let Joe Crea from cleveland.com get in the fine details of this uber fine dining experience — he’s much more versed than I — but know it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen in Cleveland. I knew Hans and I were experiencing something unique – almost magical – at times.
The most important thing I can share from my experience was the care Chef Sawyer took with my gluten intolerance. He came out to the table before the meal began, asking detailed questions to understand my level of intolerance — even offering to send me home with some farro to try (even though it has a lower level of gluten, I haven’t tried it since going GF in 2010).
Course by course, he guided us carefully through the slight alterations he made as necessary for me — my favorite being his use of pig’s ear for pasta in the pasta course. Yes, pig’s ear — sliced into almost an orzo shape, served with a farm fresh egg that was cooked in a spoon in the embers of the fire. Chewy, exactly like an al dente noodle, I was mildly shocked at how successful the substitution was.
By the end of the meal, we left incredibly satisfied and completely blown away. As we walked back down Ford towards the Peter B. Lewis Building on Case Western’s campus, I looked at Hans and said, “I think we’ve just got treated to one of the most unique dining experiences of our lives.”
LONG STORY SHORT: Trentina is not your everyday, run-of-the-mill dining experience. Every single plate of the multi-course meal that arrived at our table had the care of a fine artist creating a unique piece of their specialized craft — and we were lucky to have the artist come and share his passion for his creation. Chef Sawyer has given life again to more than just an old Cleveland building, but to a way of dining – and to an experience while eating – that we didn’t even know we wanted. But if that means saving room for fig leaf gelato, then sign me up.
Disclosure: As a part of the Trentina friends and family preview nights, I was invited to attend this tasting menu opportunity with a guest. My thoughts and opinions are my own.