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Piatto Novo feature image
How can you beat the view from the Piatto Novo dining room?
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Piatto Novo exterior
Hanging out over the river.
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Piatto Novo dessert
When I first moved to Akron, I was told it had a reputation for fine restaurants. Thanks to golf and auto racing, people came here from all over the world, and expected a certain level of dining. However, coming from Los Angeles, I was personally disappointed by the choices in the early '80s. I found lots of very good steak and seafood places, the traditional sort of “country club” restaurants that put out the Midwest version of comfort food. But I didn't find very many creative chefs...until I found Roger Thomas.
At that time, I believed the only truly creative restaurant in Akron was the Wine Merchant, which was located in “the valley”. Eclectic and iconoclastic, the “Merch” served up an ever-changing menu of new dishes, and was the only place in town that really cared about its wine service. Thomas was the Executive Chef by the time I got to town, but he had started in the restaurant at age 16, and worked there for 14 years.
After training the original staff at the Sheraton Suites Hotel in Cuyahoga Falls, Roger moved on to be the first Executive Chef for Ken Stewart (who now own three Akron restaurants), then took over the space that had been the Wine Merchant for his own Sixteen Eighty. When Canal Park was built downtown, Roger acquired the space next door, which currently houses Cilantro, and created Piatto (which means “plate” in Italian). Piatto was without doubt the finest restaurant in Akron, featuring classic Italian and European dishes which Roger created from learning experiences in Paris, London, and northern Italy. It didn't hurt that it was also the most beautiful dining room in the area.
Until a better one came along!
Cantilevered out over the cascading Cuyahoga River Falls, the dining room at the Sheraton Suites offers up one of the most spectacular settings imaginable. Three full walls of windows offer unparallelled views of the gorge, and if you are lucky enough to get a table at the far east end of the room, you are literally thrust out over the foaming water. All that was ever needed to complete this fine dining experience was food worthy of the view, and when Thomas agreed to return, the formula was complete. Piatto was reborn as Piatto Novo.
It is becoming a recognized trend for hotels to hire recognized chefs for their dining rooms; we have several here in Akron. Of course, this means they have to offer breakfast, lunch and dinner, with all the compromises entailed. Piatto Novo pulls off this challenge splendidly, as well as room service, Sunday brunch buffets, and monthly wine tasting dinners.
The regular menu is largely classic northern Italian, so you won't find much pizza, and only a limited amount of creatively sauced pastas. On a recent visit, we tried the smoked beef tenderloin anti-pasta, the lobster bisque, an alla Romana salad, linguine alla Bolognese, and chicken arrosto. The beef, served cold and sliced with red peppers and pickled carrots, had a wonderful Mediterranean accent of herbs and olive oil. The bisque was rich with cream, redolent with chunks of lobster meat. The chicken was charred on the outside, tender and moist inside, and finished with pieced of olive and a lemon confit that added just the right note of sweetness.