“We’re going for a little different feel,” said Smith, who was the chef at Bricco when it opened in Akron.
If the “feel” he was going for was inventive, palate-pleasing dishes, then he hit the mark. Appetizers include the popular banana peppers stuffed with a mixture of risotto and spicy chorizo sausage. The pair of peppers is prettily plated in a pool of basil-scented marinara sauce.
The chef-recommended ahi tuna appetizer is seared and served over a bright green wakame, a sea vegetable salad popularized in sushi bars. It’s dressed in a soy and chili sauce. The house soup, a tomato bacon bisque, is a “don’t miss.” Fresh tomatoes are roasted in bacon grease, then blended with onions, shallots, garlic and, of course, cream. The velvety bisque is studded with pieces of smoky bacon.
Although salad is not included with the dinners, I highly recommend the Very Berry Salad of mixed greens, plump blackberries and blueberries, dried cranberries, toasted pine nuts and warm goat cheese. The salad is drizzled with a perfectly balanced pomegranate vinaigrette.
Tempting entrees include lamb “lollipops,” pecan-crusted trout over a spinach and goat cheese risotto, and chicken saltimbocca with prosciutto, served on polenta.
When asked, the chef steers customers toward the beef short ribs.
“We do them slow and low,” Smith said. “Roasted in a 300-degree oven for six to eight hours with Guinness and molasses, till they are just falling apart in the pan.”
I recommend the juicy pork chops with peach barbecue sauce, served over an intensely flavored chutney made from apples and Smith’s homemade bacon.
The accompanying risotto was topped with a pile of caramelized onions. All desserts are made on site, and change daily. The evening I visited, the selection included crème brülée, peanut butter pie and chocolate cake with cream cheese icing.
I tried the apple pie cheesecake with graham cracker crust. Oh, my. A tall wedge with tender sliced apples suspended in the custardlike filling, drizzled with rich caramel. Another “don’t miss.”
Smith is often seen in the dining room, chatting with customers.
“It’s important to me to come out and talk to tables,” he said. “I feel the guests will tell me things they might not tell the server, things I need to know. I like the feedback.”
CANTON CHOP HOUSE
6041 Whipple Ave. NW, Jackson
Hours: Mon-Thur. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri. 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sat. 4-11 p.m.