Tripi Italian Specialties is the restaurant Anthony Zappola has always dreamed of running.
For years, the Solon native worked in restaurants all over the country, from New York City to Los Angeles. When he moved back to Cleveland in 2018, he dove into life as a restaurateur, opening Lox, Stock, and Brisket, a Jewish-
style deli now located in the Van Aken District, and Rice Shop, an Asian-
influenced spot down the street. But Tripi, which opened this summer in Ohio City, has been in the works for more than a decade.
“This was the restaurant I wanted to open 12 years ago, back when I didn’t know how to open restaurants,” Zappola says. “I wrote the business plan back in 2011, and it’s still the only one I’ve ever written.”
Though he has a background in fine dining and counts Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio among his mentors, Zappola has made a name for himself in Cleveland by homing in on a signature style: no-frills food that is executed absolutely perfectly.
“It takes a lot of confidence to build a menu as small as I do,” says the chef, whose family photos adorn the walls at Tripi. “It’s a formula that’s worked for me in the past: producing high-quality food with consistently good service in a good location.”
The menu at Tripi includes four different sandwiches with the signature Papa Tony ($14), named for Zappola’s Sicilian grandfather, leading the way.
It’s huge, yes, but unlike other stacked sandwiches in town, the Papa Tony isn’t big for the sake of being big; it’s intentional and a masterpiece.
Served on a soft roll made fresh each morning by Zappola himself, the sandwich features hard salami, Genoa salami, soppressata, capicola, provolone, lettuce and tomato. You don’t have to add all the extras to it — vinegary giardiniera, olive muffoletta, banana peppers and a drizzle of Italian dressing — but for the full effect, you absolutely should.
“Other than the execution, there’s nothing fancy about it,” Zappola says. “But you eat that, and you’re good for the day.”
Also on the menu is Sicilian-style pizza ($3 slice/$40 sheet) and a rigatoni dinner ($12) with your choice of meats. As at any good Italian deli, the refrigerator case is on standby to give your sweet tooth an assist. It’s filled with cannoli and dessert cups ($6) that include the most indulgent Italian cassata cake you’ve ever had.
These days, he spends most of his time at Tripi — and not just because he lives upstairs. “Tripi is my focus, Tripi is my future,” Zappola says, “and I’m anxious for the day that, in three or four years, Tripi becomes everything it’s meant to be.”
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