Welcome to Cleveland Little Italy’s favorite restaurant and bakery: Mama Santa’s Restaurant & Presti’s Bakery.
Having explored Ohio for years covering the roads less traveled, I get hungry. Any road warrior knows that discovering something mm-mmm good is a big part of the traveling experience.
I’ve also spent a few years in Europe and traveled Italy from top to bottom, big cities, small villages and an island. To boot, my surname is Sicilian. That said, I’d say I’m somewhat qualified to identify a good a pizza pie and cannoli.
I grew up in the Cleveland area and my grandparents’ houses were near downtown. Over the years, I have made more than a few trips to Murray Hill known as Cleveland’s Little Italy. Although festivals there are wonderful I enjoy the laid back days when the pavement is cooler and the crowds are thin enough not to get bumped from the sidewalks.
Much like overseas in the old country, parking is not easily found. You will have to walk. Trust me. That’s a blessing. Many people refer to Little Italy and other ethnic neighborhoods as a cultural experience. Not me. A real neighborhood has its own personality!
I love the food, the art, the shops and the people around Murray Hill. The conversation is lively and the laughter is hearty. The stroll by foot from shop to shop is full of sights that make you feel a part of something outside your normal world.
But at some point, you need a bite to eat. And if you like pizza, try Mama Santa’s Restaurant for the best darn pizza in Ohio. For dessert, walk down the street to Presti’s Bakery for the best darn cannoli in Ohio. I’ll even go a step further and say that these two are even better than anything I had in the mother country.
Mama Santa’s reminds me of the little eateries I’d grab a bite at off the beaten path in Italy. It’s cozy. Nobody is in a hurry. Relax. Stay a while and engage in conversation over some soft drinks or beer and a tangy pizza that is chewy and crisp at the same time. Oh, and the price is shockingly economical and may not seem fair …to the merchant… considering your taste buds will continue to explode with flavor with each lick of the corners of your mouth after the pie is gone.
If you have fancy-schmancy tastes, go elsewhere. Mama Santa’s is reserved for the people who enjoy the little things in life. If you haven’t been there in umpteen years, no worries, it’s probably exactly as you remember it, right down to the music serenading off the walls.
After a bite like that, you need to walk it off. And there’s plenty to see, do and buy on Mayfield Road and Murray Hill. Browse through the art galleries and specialty shops for Italian pottery, jewelry, designer clothes or dresses.
Eventually, your nose will take over your internal GPS system and lead you to Presti’s Bakery. They have just about any Italian dessert under the sun and coffee to chase it. They also serve deli sandwiches and breads. But the creamy ricotta-filled cannoli is as they say, “to die for.” And it’s been that way for more than 100 years.
Inside, it is always hopping with people that just can’t get enough. Take-out boxes are hanging over table edges with all walks of life chatting and laughing while they sample their purchases. The large glass front window allows light to pour over the blond wood floors.
After an enjoyable, slow paced, conversation rich, appetizing afternoon in Cleveland’s Little Italy atop Murray Hill, it’s time to find that precious parking spot a casual walk away and reenter the modern world and its hustle and bustle – all the while, yearning for a return before even leaving.
For more information to plan a visit to Murray Hill, visit www.littleitalycleveland.com. Mama Santa’s Restaurant is located at 12305 Mayfield Road in Cleveland, OH 44106 (Map It). Call (216) 421-2159. Presti’s Bakery & Café is located at 12101 Mayfield Road in Cleveland, OH 44106 (Map It). Phone (216) 421-3060.
By the taste buds of Frank R. Satullo, the OhioTraveler