Vinnie Cimino is a prodigy. He cut his teeth in the restaurant industry in 2007 under chef Dave Russo at Russo’s Restaurant in Peninsula and in 2009 with chef Ken Stewart at Ken Stewart’s Grille in Akron. In 2015, Cimino worked as a sous-chef under James Beard award-winning chef Jonathon Sawyer before becoming chef de cuisine at Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink in 2019. Last year, before the pandemic, Cimino even helped restaurateur Tony George open Summer House in Lakewood.
“It was definitely a shock to the system,” says Cimino of the pandemic. “After putting 100 hours of work into something, that had to change in terms of how it operated and created a dining experience for people in the city.”
Since parting ways with George in October, Cimino’s been working as a “quasi-nomad chef,” venturing into consultant work and side projects, including his own food bank, Cleveland Family Meal and sandwich pop-up shop, FatBoy Sammies. His most exciting venture yet is just over the horizon as executive chef of Immigrant Son Brewery, Lakewood’s first brewery set to open this spring.
“Everything is going to be made from scratch,” Cimino says. “We wanted to get back to our roots and celebrate traditions by converging old traditions into a modern way.”
Currently, Cimino and team are in the process of finalizing Immigrant Son Brewery’s conversion out of a former grocery store. The cooler space has allowed Cimino to think of different processes and procedures for the in-house butchery and the type of dishes they want to create.
“The menu will definitely be this eclectic combination inspired by our ancestors,” Cimino says. “Not super heavy with abundant dishes but it will be a space for communal style eating, where people can eat and wash away their worries or escape for an hour or two with a beer.”
With many of his latest projects, Cimino acknowledges his passion for cooking comes from the connections and relationships formed with customers and people he surrounds himself with. Just like at the dinner table, where family and loved ones can relish moments and memories at a centralized space, Cimino says it’s this idea that makes him think of his grandmother’s cooking and what it allowed him to really understand about his next big project.
“My grandmother owned a restaurant when I was younger and I just remember she would feed you until you just couldn’t eat anymore,” Cimino says. “Then she would send you home with food. I think Immigrant Son is an extension of that traditionalism of our parents and grandparents in a modern light.”
If you enjoyed this story, dig in to the rest of May's Best Restaurants issue below.
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