Chrissie Hynde might have sang "My City Was Gone" about her hometown of Akron with the band The Pretenders, but by opening an upscale vegan eatery north of downtown Rubber City, she's doing everything in her power to bring the phoenix back from its ashes.
Hynde, who lives out of town and out of country currently, partnered with local restauranteur Dan Duplain, the owner of Fedeli's in Canton, and chef Scot Jones (also from Fedeli's) in her former hometown to create Vegiterranean, an Italian inspired vegan eatery that operates under the slogan, "World peace starts in the kitchen."
Vegiterranean combines a sleek, polished metalic interior with vibrantly flavorful eats. There are assorted appetizers, soups, salads, paninis, pizza and pasta alongside a well selected domestic, French, Spanish and (naturally) Italian wine list.
The restaurant seems to be open for late breakfast, lunch and dinner. I can't say how the dinner menu differs from the lunch menu, but I would have to imagine for a few months it will be brutal trying to get a reservation at night. I got in with little fuss at lunch.
I started with stuffed Italian banana peppers filled with fresh herb risotto and soy mozzarella with a fresh basil lime sauce (pictured above). It was delicious...and deceptively spicy. The heat of the pepper was well contrasted by the citrus and green herb sauce that tempered its spicy character.
The creamy squash soup was earthy, rich and loaded with cinnamon notes and flavors as bright as the color of the vegetables. The radicchio and romaine side salad with white beans, olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette was classically prepared with an artful arrangement of tomatoes.
My entree was the cashew cream penne pasta with wild mushrooms, asparagus and herbs. It was a vegan mushroom cream with an underlying sweetness that was also excellent. I didn't get a chance to try the portabella panini, which came with roasted red pepper, caramelized onions and creamy pesto sauce. It looked delicious, however.
The place had just opened for lunch business recently, which might explain why the lunch service was dragging. The floor might also have been short staffed. The only complaint I really had was that the service could have been both quicker and more attentive.
But the food and the interior more than make up for this shortcoming, which will hopefully be addressed soon. Everything on the inside is metal and glass, and they have a great patio where the bar windows flip out for outside patio bar service. The walls are decorated with portraits of famous vegetarians including Paul McCartney, Alec Baldwin, Morrissey and the proprietor herself Ms. Hynde. I didn't see it in the restaurant, but perhaps a picture of the delicious Natalie Portman would pique the appetites of some of the other diners. That's purely based on my own personal ramblings, however, and not on any concrete scientific evidence.
As an interesting side note, the food is also prepared kosher, so for future reference, all Akronites interested in kosher vegan eats for Pesach will know where to look.
I'm upset I missed the opening event. Hynde rode out on a Harley and was serving food dressed up as a cocktail waitress. I'll have some pictures up shortly that will at least make you think I was there.
Definitely check this one out--it's worth traveling to search this one out. Akron does have a number of other great vegetarian and vegetarian-friendly eateries including but not limited to my other favorite the Mustard Seed. But unlike the Seed, there's no market to support Vegiterranean. They will have to rely on a faithful diet of customers from a city that in the past was thought to be gone (in Pretenders songs, anyway).