Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Underdogs: Conte's Italian Cafe

A while back, a friend from high school asked me if I had ever eaten at Conte's Italian Cafe. She told me that it was just a small family run place that served up great food at a great price. Normally I kind of take this sort of thing with a grain of salt, but I think Maggie knows a thing or two about food, so I figured I had to give it a go.

Housed in a small strip mall near the intersection of Sheldon and Smith Rds. in Brookpark, sits Conte's Italian Cafe. The outside of the building does nothing to persuade you to come inside, for all you know this just another run-of-the-mill red sauce joint complete with able bodied deep fry technicians at the ready.

As you walk inside the first thing you notice are Italian tchotchkes that are scattered about the small restaurant. I warn you, do not walk out. Sure there a numerous pictures of the Azzuri, laminated place mats with maps of Italy on them, and crucifixes abound - all hallmarks of a stereotypical Italian restaurant. The only thing missing was a oil painted mural of the Tuscan countryside.

Then you hear Mama in the kitchenbarking orders in her native tongue and you immediately ask, "Where do I sit?"

The bread - I don't know if they actually make the dough themselves - is crusty and hot. The salads, which are included with your entree, are iceberg (not my favorite) and come dressed with a vinaigrette.

The Kitchen

But frankly, I'm not here for bread and salad. No, it's the entrees they rock hard and steady here at Conte's. From what I can see the pasta is made to order. (They had one of the sectioned off pots with the individual compartments for the pasta. Is it homemade? I don't know. I'll ask the next time I go. If there's a fryer here, it doesn't get used much.

The Margherita

We started with a Margherita Pizza with fresh mozzarella. It's clearly not Lucali, but the dough had a good flavor and the pie itself had a nice balance of flavors. I don't know exactly what to attribute it to, but the cheese had an orange tinge to it. I liked it, and at $7 who am I to bitch about its color?

I ordered the Pollo Dello Chef which consisted of chicken stuffed with spinach and mascarpone cheese in a brandy wine sauce, with penne pasta. This a very large serving of food. Unless you are a big eater I just don't see how you can finish the whole thing, due to its size and richness. I would recommend splitting this with someone since it isn't a good candidate for reheating. If you go it alone make sure you wear pants with an elastic waste band. Although I thought they had a heavy hand with the sauce, it was a fantastic dish.

I'm not going to pretend like this is a fancy restaurant - it's not. It is however, a place that you can bring children, people who value price over quality (like my dad), people you value quality over price (like my wife), and pretty much anyone in between. What they charge here - especially for lunch - is completely redic. I've not had the sandwiches, but if they're served on that bread they gave us for dinner you can sign me up. One other side note, my wife is a bit of an eggplant snob and said the thinly sliced stuff they're serving here is up is solid.

Conte's is an underdog if ever there was one. The building's not fancy. The decor is nothing special. The plating isn't very good. But the food is an excellent value. I posted the menu on Urbanspoon. [see link below]

Conte's Italian Cafe
15266 Sheldon Rd
Brook Park, OH 44142

(216) 898-0281

Conte on Urbanspoon


  1. Nice! Glad to see you made it over there. Not fancy but really tasty and especially for the money. I haven't tried either of those dishes, my favorite is the cavatelli pink sauce. mmmmm.

  2. Thanks, Mags. I love catches like these.

    Dan - stay tuned.

  3. This does sound like a real find, and, like most destinations in the Brookpark / Parma area, seems strategically placed for poor freeway access (like I should talk being from Cleveland Heights).

    We'll definitely have to try it if we're in the area.

  4. Whether in the area or not, go there. you will not be disappointed.