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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, February 5, 2015

Previewing Pastina, Mentor newest restaurant

My smoked salmon chips were a delightful combination of chile cream cheese, capers, chives and pickled onion served on top of huge potato chips 
The hottest new tables around are at Pastina, which opens Monday Feb. 9 in a stunning new space at 9354 Mentor Ave. I was among those invited for a soft opening preview - a time to fine tune both service and food - and both my friend and I were super impressed.

Meet Tina Greci, affable proprietor at Pastina, Mentor's newest restaurant.

The 200 seat restaurant is the latest in the offerings from the Longo family with its Longo's just west on Mentor Avenue and and Joey's Italian Grille locations in Chardon and Madison Township.

However, this place is Tina's as in Tina Greci, Joe's sister, and it has her touch in everything from the amber like jewel tone chandeliers  to the layout. Her husband, Ray Greci, oversees the making of the pizza crusts, the breads and the light and delicate homemade pastas. But everything here is made from scratch.
The whole family was on hand to welcome invited guests who filled booths big enough to accommodate eight smaller people and six with more ample proportions. Tables also are available but folks seemed to prefer the cushy booths.

The shrimp and polenta small plate has an interesting and quite delicious combo of flavors. 

The bar, which has 100 more seats for dining, also were filled. This place has 6,000 square feet and is served by a large kitchen.

My friend and I ordered from the small plates part of the menu and then split a margherita pizza ($10).

She ordered the shrimp and polenta, priced at $11, while I went with the smoked salmon chips at $9. Her shrimp were huge and wonderful tasting atop a lovely cake of polenta, napped by  a lemon butter fondue.  It was served in a pretty squarish half plate, half bowl. My house smoked salmon had chile cream cheese, capers, chives and pickled onion  set atop homemade potato chips made from large Idaho potatoes and set on a board.  I was surprised to discover it was cold but there were six of those really large chips.

We both agreed those so-called small plates were enough for a meal and when the pizza came we couldnt finish it. But the pizza had waht is perhaps the lightest crust I'd ever had and was simpoly prepared with tomato sauce house-made mozzarella and fresh basil.


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