Sometimes great places just fall off my radar. There's no good reason for it. But what's new overshadows the familiar. Or a spot isn't located along my usual routes or in a neighborhood I frequent often, so I forget about it. That's what happened with J. Pistone, a market and cafe, or gathering place as Joan and her brother John Pistone like to call it, on Warrensville Road in Shaker Heights. But I recently had a meeting out that way and walked out after two hours of talking with a big hungry hole in my stomach and another appointment to get to in less than an hour. I almost drove by before I realized I was within sight of a dependably good and quick lunch.
The three-meal-a-day cafe has a regular menu of sandwiches, wraps, soup and salads. But I was drawn to the gorgeous prepared foods display. The guy behind the counter was ready to take my order, but I had a tough time deciding what to eat because there were so many appealing choices: cold pasta and grain dishes, brightly colored vegetables of all kinds, chunks of salmon and slices of beef. After keeping him waiting for too long, I settled on soba noodles in a zesty peanut sauce and roasted cauliflower, both sold by weight.
It was one of these warm Indian summer days we've been having, so I grabbed a sidewalk seat and a server brought my food out to me. I spent the next 20 minutes enjoying my meal and happily eavesdropping on a pair of older guys, friends since childhood, lingering over their lunch as they reminisced about parents, buddies, and growing up in Cleveland circa 1950s.
In addition to ready-to-go entrees and sides, you can get everything needed for a complete meal from house-made baked goods to packaged gourmet foods and fine wines. As the holiday season approaches, it's worth remembering that Joan, John and their staff create food gift baskets, party platters and cater events and meetings. I grabbed a copy of the catering menu and it's impressive, with creative restaurant-style options such as lobster mac and cheese, country pate, beef bourguignon, Thai pork, cassoulet, eggplant torta and wild mushroom tart. The siblings, who have the restaurant business in their blood and between them claim more than 40 years of experience, have been doing this together since 2000. My brief visit this month reminded me of just how well they work together, and why I should keep this place in my sights.