Bliss, a restaurant in Alliance, is approaching its first anniversary in business. It’s is an amusing contradiction — an upscale dining spot housed in a former gas station. Actually, the tiny building was formerly a gas station, then pizza parlor, hot dog shop and bakery. But thanks to Rosemary Burke’s wizardry, you’d never know it once you’re inside.
Burke, who co-owns the eatery with daughter Melissa Miller, created a black and cream theme with help from floor-to-ceiling swaths of a mod fabric.
“That fabric disguises a bazillion things — crooked walls, electrical stuff,” Burke said. “I got it at an auction. A designer went out of business and she had bolts and bolts of beautiful upholstery fabric.”
The black and cream are accented with splashes of burgundy. The dining room redefines cozy, with just 24 seats, close enough for eavesdropping. There are four customer seats at a bar in the kitchen, which is separated from the dining area by wrought iron grillwork and a translucent, cream-colored curtain.
Lighting is provided by a trio of unmatched chandeliers in the center of the ceiling — an eclectic, funky effect.
The menu changes monthly and specials change weekly. The specials are posted on Facebook by Miller, who handles marketing for the eatery.
“We use Facebook to interact with our customers, ask for opinions. We let them know about little deals, like if we’re doing a kids-eat-free night,” Miller said. “We post our weekly specials. One of the reasons we change the menu monthly, and have weekly specials, is so we can cook seasonally. We use local whenever we can.”
Nearly everything is made from scratch in the tiny kitchen, from the ravioli to the soup, which is served year round.
I tried the cauliflower soup — a creamy concoction topped with a swirl of red pepper coulis. Burke’s favorite is the chicken noodle, made with fresh tortellini.
“I also like the pumpkin soup, which was a huge hit last fall,” Burke said. “We bake the pumpkins, peel them, puree them. There’s a richness from butter and cream, and cayenne for a little kick.”
Their signature ravioli is stuffed with roasted fresh beets and goat cheese, a seemingly odd combination designed by former co-owner Carrie Lucido.
“We have it back on this month as an appetizer — customers asked us to put it back,” Burke said. “It’s very rich with that brown butter sauce.”
Another popular ravioli is stuffed with smoked salmon and served with a dill cream sauce. Burke said their best-selling entree is whatever fresh fish special they serve.
“Hands down. The fresh fish has been tremendous, from striped bass to pacific snapper,” she said. “We sell out every week.”
Popular entrees include the Guiness-soaked filet and pasta dishes. Considering the flavorful, basil-laced marinara sauce on the pasta, it’s no surprise.
“Our homemade cavatelli is popular — it’s hard to find cavatelli,” Burke said. “And our homemade meatballs, made with pork and veal and beef.”
Don’t miss dessert, from cassata cake to ricotta pie, as well as gelato imported from Italy. Miller highly recommends the pistachio.
The restaurant is open in the evenings Wednesday through Saturday. When they aren’t open, they are catering throughout Stark County or hosting parties at the restaurant.
“We will close the restaurant for a private party. We’re the perfect size for a birthday party, anniversary party, rehearsal dinner,“ Burke said.
If you dine at Bliss, you’ll meet Miller, because she helps serve, and Burke, because she always takes the few steps from the kitchen to the dining room to chat with customers.
“We’re still learning,” Burke said. “We always ask for suggestions. We want to talk to people and make sure they are having a nice dining experience.”
2106 S. Union Ave., Alliance
Open: Wed.-Sat., 5-9 p.m.
On the menu:
Beet and goat cheese ravioli in brown butter sauce (appetizer), $9;
Homemade soup, $4 cup, $6 bowl;
Homemade cavatelli and meatballs, $14;
Chicken parmesan, $16;
Homemade desserts, $5-6;
Dessert trio, $9;
Weekly specials, $16-30.