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A Quick Bite with the Cleveland chef who cooks for Eric Clapton and Todd Rundgren
Dante Boccuzzi also cooked for Giorgio Armani in Italy.
This story is part of a special series.

Vivian Goodman
Cleveland chef Dante Boccuzzi, who cooks for Eric Clapton and Todd Rundgren, has opened four restaurants in only five years.
Courtesy of Vivian Goodman
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A key ingredient in Cleveland’s hot new cuisine scene is a former dishwasher who now owns four restaurants. WKSU’s Vivian Goodman takes us to Tremont for a Quick Bite with Dante Boccuzzi.
One rockin' chef

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Dante,  Dante Boccuzzi’s signature restaurant on Professor Avenue, used to be a Third Federal bank branch. Marble pillars at the entrance frame a décor that’s quietly upscale, but comfortable. Dark wood paneling and natural light create an ambience that can be intimate.  But on a busy night, the chatter of as many as 80 diners bounces off the vaulted ceilings.

Modern American Cuisine 

The restaurant is billed as “modern American cuisine,” but it includes many echoes of the chef’s international resume such as Tuscan bean soup, lobe of foie gras, and tempura tofu .

Growing up in Middleburg Heights and Parma, Boccuzzi  worked as a dishwasher and cook from the age of 14.

The most prestigious and fine dining restaurant that I went to like as a student at school was Le Cirque. That was in the early 90s and that was just an experience I’ll never forget just: first time in New York City and first time in a restaurant of that caliber . It was pretty cool.”

He attended the Culinary Institute of America and right after graduation in 1991, went to work for the legendary chef Charlie Parker at New York’s Aureole.

Boccuzzi went on to cook in England, France, Italy, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Washington D.C. and San Francisco before returning to Cleveland in 2007.

Cooking with the best

 “I always wanted to work under as many great chefs as I could. I always figured if I wanted to be the best someday, I should work for the best.”

He has cooked for Giorgio Armani in Milan and Robert De Niro in Hollywood. But as a drummer and guitarist, his biggest thrills have been cooking for rock stars.

 “When I was in Italy cooking, I met Eric Clapton, Phil Collins. Then in San Francisco I met Eddie Vedder, Bruce Springsteen. I mean all kinds of people (who) when I was a kid listening to their music I thought, ‘Oh wow, it would be cool to meet them,’ And then, here in town, Todd Rundgren;  anytime he comes to town he comes in to eat." 

 You can bank on sushi at Gingko

Why the name? Gingko means bank in Japanese.

There’s a glowing glass wall, lots of neon and anime, a video game in the corner, and a sushi bar that seats 25.

Paul Smith of Cleveland calls it the city’s best sushi:

 “I think you need to be authentic. A lot of people have just regular rolls. They do a lot of different things here that I’ve never tried before and it’s upscale; it’s a great place and awesome food.”

Working in Italy under the renowned “Nobu” Yuki Matsuhisa, Dante says he ate sushi every day:

 “It’s kind of funny because somebody pointed out to me. You know you just opened this restaurant for yourself so that you could have sushi anytime you wanted it. And that’s probably very true.”

Homemade pasta 

In February, Dante opened a third restaurant, D.C. Pasta, in Strongsville. He’s a pasta fanatic, too:

 “I would eat pasta every single day. You know when it’s done well and it’s homemade it’s amazing. And we have an extruder machine which makes 15 pounds of pasta every hour. And it’s kind of the beginning of a concept that might develop into something a little bit bigger, more of a market."

Dante’s happy in Tremont.

“ I think it’s a great area. People just flock down here to go to the art galleries and hang out at bars or whatever and then come in to eat.”

 There are other really great restaurants here, too. Is that competition or does that enhance your business?

 I think it’s both. We are in competition, but it draws people down here.

Where do you eat out if you do?

“I’m a big fan of Barcento. We always go get a pizza there once a week. If I’m looking for something a little more formal, I’ll go to Moxie or Red.

Dante Boccuzzi. His newest restaurant, yet to be named, is set to open this summer in the former Vegiterranean space at Akron’s Northside Lofts.

Related Links & Resources
Dante website

Listener Comments:

dante im as proud of you as your dad an family
keep up the good work you put tremont on the map god bless you and your family larry and tina

Posted by: larry falasco (cape coral fl) on April 6, 2012 11:04AM
Wow....Dante has surely made us proud! We go way back to his CIA days in Hyde Park, NY!!! We love you cuz!!!!!

Posted by: Valerie Andrews (Poughkeepsie, New York) on April 6, 2012 3:04AM
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