Via Van Aken

Spaghetti with meatballsf you’remorte di fame —that’s Italian for dying of hunger ­— then Via Van Aken’s eggplant Parmesan or fettuccine alfredo is just what you need. Portions are generous at this Shaker Heights eatery specializing in Italian-American classics, and prices are moderate. Spaghetti comes with meatballs the size of something generally seen in a catcher’s mitt ($12.99), and the lasagna’s made deep-dish style with three different cheeses and seasoned beef ($12.99). You can have a fine Caesar salad ($3.99), a plate of veal scallopini Marsala ($16.99) or lemony chicken piccata ($14.99), paired with a bottle of nice vino, and finish with a piece of tiramisu ($3.99) and not have to sell off the family jewels to pay for your night out. Plus you can enjoy the kind of upscale ambience complete with white tablecloths, candlelight, fresh flowers and warm focaccia bread with olive oil for dipping, usually found in pricier places. Those who come for dinner Thursday through Saturday get even more for the money because a piano player tickles the keys of a baby grand. The mellow sounds of old favorites like “Making Whoopee” lend an air of elegance to even a simple meal of pizza ($6.99-$14.99) or a sausage sub ($8.99).

This isn’t exactly a new spot. Formerly called The Italian Café, it reopened last spring with an expanded menu after some interior renovations, but the chef and the staff are the same. The cozy lounge is an appealing feature. With its handsome wood-and-granite bar, a smattering of small tables and comfy seating, it’s a popular local hangout and a pleasant destination before or after a meal. Try one of the great boutique beers such as Hazed & Infused Ale from Boulder Beer Co. or a glass of Shoofly Grenache from south Australia.
Via Van Aken, 20153 Van Aken Blvd., Shaker Heights, (216) 752-9994; Mon-Thu 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.; Fri & Sat 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.; closed Sun.
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