“We do classic Italian,” Heather Abshire said about the cuisine at Sylvester’s North End Grille, where she is the chef.
“I wouldn’t say we’re reinventing the wheel. But we use only high quality, very fresh products,” she added. “The owner, Nick Sylvester, is very big on that. All of our meats and seafood are very fresh. We’re picky about what we serve here.”
Q. The red sauce is a key item at an Italian restaurant. What can you tell me about Sylvester’s?
A. The sauce is a secret family recipe that I don’t know too much about. A family member who works here makes the sauce. I know we use D.O.P. tomatoes, which is a very high-standard tomato with no water in it. They cook those down for quite some time.”
Q. What is it about the food that gives Sylvester’s such a steady clientele?
A. “We have such a broad spectrum. You can get classic chicken parmesan and that’s wonderful, but you can also come in and get a prime strip steak. We make sure it’s prime beef, and we take very good care of it here. We have daily features that always include sea bass, which is brought to us fresh. Like a true Italian restaurant, there’s always large portions. We don’t want anyone going home hungry.”
Q. I’ve sat at the bar at Sylvester’s and shared appetizers with friends for dinners. What is your pick?
A. “A fun thing to have is our risotto balls with fresh mozzarella cheese and risotto made fresh daily. There’s nothing frozen, and a lot of love going into everything in the kitchen.”
Q. How about your entrees? What would you recommend?
A. “I like the daily features, which are always changing. But from the menu? I like fresh shellfish. I put a lot of time into our mussels. We cook them down in white wine with fresh herbs. It’s nice and classic and simple. Our bread goes great with the leftover broth. I toast it with basil oil and pesto on top, then toast it off.”
Q. How did you get started in cooking?
A. “I grew up in Portage County, and I went to Maplewood Career Center, which has a culinary program. But mostly it’s been the school of hard knocks. I worked with Moe at Moe’s (restaurant) on Front Street in Cuyahoga Falls. Most of my time has been spent with Shawn Monday, who is the owner-operator of three restaurants in Hudson—One Red Door, 3 Palms and Flipside. His restaurants are very chef-driven, and you can see his influence on me here at Sylvester’s.”
Q. Growing up, were you around good food?
A. “My grandfather was a baker in the military. We always had homemade bread, homemade meals, had gardens, did canning. Just your basic little kid growing up on a farm.”
Q. It sounds like you really enjoy cooking at Sylvester’s?
A. “I love working here. I spend most of my day here, most of my week. The owner really cares about his staff and his customers. Anyone who comes through the door will feel they are friends with Nick Sylvester as well.”