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Flour delivers, from nibbles to entrees to pizza, in Moreland Hills

October 11, 2018

Flour delivers, from nibbles to entrees to pizza, in Moreland Hills

MORELAND HILLS, Ohio – Flour’s vibe hits you immediately. The energy level always seems high, sounds rising and wafting over transoms. Head to the dining room and the ‘Where’s Waldo’-like game begins: Where’s Paul?

He’s easy to spot, and he’s there all the time. Look around and you’ll usually spot the trademark red ballcap bobbing near the open kitchen. It’s owner Paul Minnillo, always hustling in the restaurant, which has been around more than seven years. Minnillo and Matt Mytro are chef-owners.

It has a modern feel, with sleek surroundings throughout the space. Metal tables and paper-sheet tablecloths sound utilitarian, but they work here.

Don’t expect a ton of entrees. As a matter of fact, there are as many fresh-pasta dishes (five) as main dishes. The appetizers and pizzas should not be missed.

Two avenues are available for starters: A more traditional route, or meats and cheeses.

It is the latter – shareable cured charcuterie selections and daily cheeses – where Flour sets itself apart.

If you want a savory bite that isn’t overfilling, a good charcuterie and cheese board is the way to go among friends.

The well-chosen ingredients serve as a fine way to whet your appetite. They also act as a reminder that a good antipasto board should offer opposite textures.

The salumi and cheese we had included mortadella, what I have always called high-class Italian bologna – soft and sliced as thin as a dime. Salumi from Geneva, Ohio, came with a spicy kick. Culatello – which did a wonderful impersonation of prosciutto – was included on our plate. Assorted cow’s milk cheeses rounded out our nosh. A finishing touch were palate-cleansing pickled vegetables – the vinegar’s tartness restrained, yielding a clean taste. Figs and pear added great natural sweetness and matched the cheeses and meats.

Minnillo, whose resume includes the gone but not forgotten Baricelli Inn, does not skimp on meats and cheeses, and it isn’t until you try expensive cuts that you realize the range of quality among charcuterie offerings in restaurants.

Among the appetizers, we chose fried olives filled with goat cheese and seasoned with balsamic aioli. The olives had a bit of a crunch, making for an interesting play of textures. And they disappeared in a hurry.

A big a$$ meatball is enhanced by, of all things, cheese: Whipped ricotta and Reggiano, seasoned with sage and a smooth fresh-tasting marinara sauce.

Appetizers also included crispy calamari, stuffed peppers with sausage, mussels and a unique cauliflower soup that tempted but lost out to that big a$$ meatball.

On our visits, we tried two pizzas. Again, quality cheese stands out. Soft, fresh-tasting, thick-cut mozzarella – always a fine marriage with tomato sauce – was delicious on very thin dough with not-sweet sauce on both the margherita and pepperoni pizzas. Tomato sauce in any dish often makes for wonderful leftovers, being that its overnight nap creates a great fermentation of sorts among flavors. While I usually pass on pepperoni, the quarter-sized pieces were delicious, a bit smoky and a little thicker than the average pepperoni tossed on a pie. Hard Grana cheese added a nice umami touch.

For entrees, nothing missed. Bonus: Two sizes of pasta are offered - something that should be common in fine-dining menus when appetizer selections are so tempting.

Spaghetti and clams came covered with fresh shellfish, but know that it comes with a very healthy dose of chili – a bit too much heat even for me, and I like a spicy kick in dishes.

A dining pal was wow’d by the lasagna, which struck a deft balance between having the perfect amounts of sauce, meat and cheese.

Campanelle, twisty trumpet noodles served with mushrooms, was served with miso butter, resulting in a creamy, earthy flavorful dish. The pasta was cooked perfectly, the mushrooms not overbearing.

In keeping with the Italian theme, a pair of desserts came through beautifully. The cannoli’s filling had a great texture, hitting that al dente moment – not too thin, not too granular, not too thick. As delicious as that was, the Tiramisu was outstanding.

Served in a jar, it’s a foregone conclusion you will share. We still had some left over. The next day - like pizza, Bolognese, fine wine or a healthy relationship - it had improved. After a night in the fridge, the flavors came alive in its chocolate-mousse-like consistency.

Cleaning the plate: While Italian restaurants often have familiar dishes, Flour does an excellent job, and doesn’t try to impress with a massive menu. Instead, the restaurant focuses on excellent ingredients that shine particularly in its charcuterie and cheese selections.

More on Flour, an Italian Kitchen

• It’s at 34205 Chagrin Blvd., Moreland Hills, in Moreland Hills Towne Center.

• A knowledgeable server did a nice job matching incongruous-to-pair dishes with wine. The wine list, by the way, has an expected and excellent emphasis on Italian vino, including several Barolos. The list is massive; prepare to spend a few minutes with it.

• The bar area is segregated from the dining room and has a pair of televisions.

• For music on a Friday night, we heard light alt rock and the like, including Gin Blossoms.

• Tasteful modern art is hung and lit nicely throughout the space.

• It’s in a small, well-kept corner development that includes Luna Bakery & Cafe, ML Tavern, Fringe Boutique, Govberg Jewelers and J3 Clothing.

• Parking includes a free valet, with cars remaining in the lot.

• We’ve checked out Flour for brunch, a tasty experience with some intriguing dishes. Here’s our take.

Taste Bites

Flour

Where: 34205 Chagrin Blvd., Moreland Hills.

Contact: 216-464-3700.

Hours: Lunch – 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; dinner – 5-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 5-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, and 5-8 p.m. Sunday. Brunch is 10:30 a.m.- 2 p.m. Sunday.

Prices: Appetizers, soups, shareable meats and cheese, $9-$20; salads, $10-$15; 10-inch pizzas, $14-$18.50; entrees, $15-$41; sides, $8-$10; dessert, $4.50-$10.

Happy hour: 2:30-6 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Reservations: Accepted.

Credit cards: All major.

Cuisine: Italian.

Accessibility: Decent space, one level.

Grade: ****

Flour’s pasta is fresh and hand-cut:

Extruding toasted yeast papardelle at @FlourRestaurant - it smells great! #weirdgood #sendnoods pic.twitter.com/UxZGBgZwEO— David Kocab (@DaKocab) August 2, 2017

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