An Afternoon in Little Italy

Maxi's in Little Italy Cleveland Photo by Margie MiklasBack in my home town of Cleveland, I met up with Elise, my best friend from high school and we spent an afternoon in Little Italy.

Litttle Italy Cleveland Photo by Margie MiklasWalking up Murray Hill Road approaching Mayfield, the main streets that comprise this original Italian-American community, I heard Italian music through the open door of a small shop, La Bella Vita.

La Bella Vita shop Cleveland - Photo by Margie MiklasBeautiful hand-painted ceramic pieces enticed us from the windows and Elise said, “Let’s go in.”

La Bella Vita shop Photo by Margie MiklasAs soon as I stepped inside I knew this shop was special. Immediately I noticed hand-made items with the familiar Trinacria design from Sicilia and knew these were authentic “Made in Italy” items.

La Bella Vita shop Photo by Margie MiklasThe very friendly owner introduced himself as Pete and welcomed us into his shop with a warm smile.

with Pete, La Bella Vita owner Photo by Margie Miklas
La Bella Vita which translates to a Beautiful Life, has been a fixture in Little Italy for the past sixteen years. A second shop is located in another part of Cleveland as well.

The atmosphere is so Italian here that even a beautiful fresco graces the ceiling above the entrance.

little-italy-2-elsie-and-meI could have spent all day in here but since we had just a few hours and we planned on eating lunch in Little Italy, I had to be content to browse for less than a half hour. I immediately recognized the hand-painted ceramic plates from Vietri by their design. They are the same ones I had purchased in Italy and later ordered from Romeo Cuomo, from Italian Decorative Art

Vietri Ceramics Romeo Cuomo Photo by Margie MiklasPete explained how everything here is hand selected by himself and his wife, whose father is from Italia. They travel to Italy yearly to choose and purchase their items and visit the places where they manufacture the products.

I left there with three vintage posters which I will soon be hanging in my home.

Before we left I asked Pete for his recommendation for a light lunch. I mentioned I was in the mood for a caprese salad and he didn’t hesitate when he told us we had to go to Maxi’s. “They have the best,” he said. It’s the restaurant with the black awning. You can’t miss it.”


little-italy-3-caprese-saladWhen asked, he also happily recommended the historic family-owned Corbo’s Bakery for gelato and the well-known (and family-owned since 1903) Presti’s for a cappuccino or caffè if we wanted to sit down.

The caprese salad at Maxi’s was the best I have tasted outside of Italy and the prosecco  was wonderful too! At Presti’s I needed a double shot of espresso to perk me up after the prosecco! Elise enjoyed the pistachio gelato from Corbo’s.

Corbo's Bakery Little Italy Cleveland Photo by Margie Miklas

little-italy-5-prestis-img_6104 little-italy-6-gelato-corbosWe even lucked out to see a wedding party taking photographs. Amore!

little-italy-wedding-guys little-italy-weddingGrazie Pete for wonderful suggestions! We followed your advice and weren’t disappointed!

I have found that a recommendation from a local is always the best.

What about you? When you travel, do you seek out local advice? I’d love to hear your feedback so please leave a comment.

Grazie and Ciao

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18 Responses

  1. Un po' di pepe

    I haven’t been to Cleveland, but I have heard that there is a large Italian contingency there. This store would be dangerous for my wallet! Ciao, Cristina

    • margieinitaly

      Ye, it is my hometown and the Little Italy there is wonderful. This store has beautiful authentic pieces from Italy. Just going inside is like stepping back in time and being in Italy again.

  2. Tony

    Looks like you had a great day in Little Italy and a walk down memory lane, both of your hometown and the bel paese! Makes me homesick for both. 🙂

    • margieinitaly

      Grazie Terry. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I was also impressed with a sign I saw announcing live opera on Monday nights in a little restaurant called la Dolce Vita, bistro located at the corner of Mayfield and Murray Hill in historic Little Italy. Next time I’m in Cleveland I will definitely stop in for a taste of your authentic Italian food! Grazie and nice to meet you. Terry owns La Dolce Vita.

I'm always interested in your thoughts, so please leave a comment.