Less than a year ago, I reached out to Randal Johnson, the chef and owner of Molinari’s in Mentor. I was writing a feature about Cleveland restaurants that have managed to survive the test of time by adapting. When Johnson and I chatted, Molinari’s was approaching its 29th birthday. Sadly, that pioneering eatery will not see its 30th. Johnson was forced to close the restaurant last month.
Johnson has been wrestling with culinary trends ever since he opened the doors in 1991. Eager to escape the traditional restaurant experience, the Culinary Institute of America grad initially opened as a retail wine and specialty foods shop. A year into it, though, he added a few tables for dine-in service. Then he added a few more. A couple years later the space next door became available so he commandeered that and expanded the kitchen to better support his