I don’t know about you, but when I used to think about Italian food, I would immediately think of spaghetti and meatballs smothered in marinara sauce and topped with Parmesan cheese.  This of course is a very narrow view of Italian cuisine reflecting my inexperience at the time with all the variety it has to offer.  My views began to change a few years ago when I was fortunate to have a chance to visit several cities in Italy.  As might be expected for most Americans, I sought pizza in Rome (Figure 1).  As we traveled north, though, we started to notice a change in the menus.  We went from pizza to white bean dishes to marinated sardines (Figure 2) in a matter of days.  A far cry from spaghetti, indeed!

Figure 1. When in Rome, have some pizza (2009)!

Figure 2. Sarde in saor (marinated sardines) from Venice, Italy (2009).

Lucky for us in Cleveland, we don’t have to hop on a plane and travel overseas to experience authentic and varied Italian cuisine.  As I have written before, we literally have these dishes in our backyard here at CWRU with Little Italy.  And, then there’s Trentina.  Oh, Trentina!

Figure 3. Trentina’s cheese plate, take one.

Figure 4. Charcuterie di Trentina.

Trentina is located next door to the Glidden House, a boutique hotel in University Circle adjacent to our campus and within easy walking distance to our offices.  We in the Department and ICB use the Glidden House for outside guests visiting CWRU for interviews, seminars, and the annual North Coast Conference on Precision Medicine.  The Glidden House does not have its own restaurant, but it is next door to Trentina, a small space devoted to Northern Italian cuisine where Jonathon Sawyer and his wife Amelia blend imported Italian specialty foods with locally sourced Midwestern ingredients.

I so far have only made it once to Trentina, and I am still savoring that experience!  On that special night, we were hosting EPBI 502 speaker Dr. Melinda Aldrich from Vanderbilt University Medical Center.  Melinda is a good friend to many of us, so we wanted to treat her right.  Melinda is also a food enthusiast, so we knew we needed to take her somewhere that would highlight Cleveland’s hot and respected dining scene.  So for Melinda, we chose Trentina and their Menu Bianco.

Figure 5. Crudo di mare o terra. Mmmm, from the sea.

Figure 6. Bread with freshly melted butter.

Menu Bianco is described as a “12 course tasting menu that is hand curated to be a symphony of seasonality.”  In short, come prepared to eat a bunch of small, rich plates.  Examples of these plates include cheese and charcuterie starters (Figures 3 and 4), followed by assorted fish (Figure 5) and meat dishes, interspersed with bread, butter, and small pasta dishes (Figure 6), and completed with a small bite of something sweet.  A show-stopper was the aged risotto complete with a side piece of ember (Figure 7).  And, at some point during our meal, the cheese plate made a re-appearance lest we didn’t have enough the first time around (Figure 8).  So much was going on and so quickly during this meal, I couldn’t keep up with the pictures and the notes!  All in all, we felt more than satisfied with the experience as we waddled out of the restaurant (Figure 9).

Figure 7. Aged risotto. Note: the ember is only a garnish.

Figure 8. Here comes the cheese plate again!









Figure 9. Closing with chocolate. Finally, we are done!










Feasts like Menu Bianco are for special occasions. For the other days in our lives, Trentina offers an a la carte menu with a range of starters and entrees. To my pleasant surprise, much of this a la carte menu is also available for delivery to your home or office through Skip the Dishes. Pizza in Rome and pizza at home (Figure 10). Mangia!

Corrigendum:  In Figure 6, I described the plate with a melted something and a wick “butter.”  That is not butter, my friend.  It is beef suet, a fancy way of saying beef fat.  No wonder we were waddling.

Update:  Trentina permanently closed on January 13, 2019 after a failed lease renegotiation.  Trentina joins a list of closings recently in University Circle.  This is a terrible trend, and they will be missed by many.

Figure 10. Trentina sausage pizza, delivered.

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Dana Crawford

Professor of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences and Associate Director of the Cleveland Institute for Computational Biology, with interest in pharmacogenomics, electronic health records, and diverse populations. Also, an avid foodie!