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Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Carl Quagliata's Tuscany

Carl Quagliata needs no introduction to area foodies. Best known for his top rated Ristorante Giovanni’s in Beachwood, on Wednesday he added to his longtime restaurant presence with the opening of Tuscany, in a lovely space within the Hamptons complex next to Beachwood Place.
I was among the guests invited for a trial run earlier in the week.
My friend and I were seated in a bright atrium area next to a garden-framed courtyard where outdoor dining will take place in warmer weather.
A beaming Quagliata welcomed guests before retreating to the kitchen to cook. He’s always been a wonderful cook and truly enjoys his stints in the kitchen. Now 72, Quagliata astounds his contemporaries with his energy, beginning most days early at his Mayfield Road bakery Casa Dolce and ending them at Giovanni’s
Back in the ‘70s, the Eastlake native became one of the first fine dining restaurateurs in Lake County with his TreScalini Room at the White House, in a one-time mansion in Mentor. Long ago leveled to make room for shopping, I recall it being located near where Staples Plaza is today. But I could be wrong.
Tuscany’s two-page menu will certainly be embraced for abounding in choices. I could easily have contented myself with a meal assembled from among its 14 antipasto choices. They ranged from a compote take on the classic prosciutto and melon to crusted arancini - rice fritters with veal, beef and an imported cheese stuffing. That’s his mother’s recipe, a version of a street food in Sicily.
I was also tempted by the array of salads and thin-crust appetizer pizzas, but I knew my meal would quickly be over had I gone that direction.
Although my mouth waters with the thought of good food, I just don’t have the capacity for large meals any more.
Since Quagliata is proudest of his homemade pastas, I ordered the ravioli magro, a delightful dish of light as air pasta pillows filled with ricotta, spinach and asiago cheese and napped with a sage butter sauce. I wavered, however, when I saw the angle hair pasta with rock shrimp fennel cream and a tomato sauce. I love fennel, especially in spring, and I don’t see it on menus very often. I’m thinking that fennel might be a great subject for a future story for the Wednesday Food section.
My friend ordered the tagliatell al pesto — flat noodles napped with fresh basil, sundried tomatoes, toasted pine nuts and Romano cheese. They were among another dozen pasta dishes all priced at around $12. One taste and we quickly understood why Carl is so proud of this part of the menu.
I’ve known for years that Carl’s personal preference as a cook runs to roasted and braised dishes, so the rotisserie items that conclude the menu are sure to garner their own following. They range from a roasted fresh fish of the day to roasted and sliced beef and roasted chicken. My eye latched onto the horseradish crusted tilapia with roasted potatoes, white bean caponata and a citrus buerre blanc. Maybe next time — and there certainly will be a next time. Tuscany is sure to become a great lunch or dinner standout among the mostly chain restaurants around Beachwood Place and neighboring Legacy Village.
Tuscany is open from 11:30 to 3:30 for lunch and from 3:30 to 9 p.m. for dinner. To find it, exit I-271 at Brainard, hang a right on Cedar and turn left off Cedar Road into the first driveway for Beachwood Place. Stay left and you’ll turn into the gated community that is The Hamptons. Tuscany is straight ahead in the single story building at 27040 Cedar Road.