CLEVELAND, Ohio – Joe Cimperman knows his way around food.
For 18 years he served on the Cleveland City Council for Ward 3, which is home to the West Side Market and dozens of restaurants in Ohio City, Tremont, the apartments, the warehouse district and downtown Cleveland.
Cimperman is now President of Global Cleveland, a non-profit economic development organization that welcomes immigrants and international newcomers to the city and connects them with the opportunities here. The position made him an expert in international cuisine.
We met Cimperman, the proud son of a Slovenian immigrant, to talk about his favorite spots and foods in Cleveland.
1. What is your favorite Cleveland restaurant and why?
My top 5 Cleveland restaurants are Nate’s Deli, Banana blossom, Marie’s restaurant, Superior Pho and Irie Jamaican Kitchen. You honestly can’t ask me for just one international restaurant, Joey, it’s un-American and I’m not going to stand up for it. Lebanese, Thai, Croatian, Vietnamese, Jamaican goodness. Capiche?
2. Favorite dish you ordered from anywhere in the Cleveland area?
Easy. The Ube ice cream at Mason’s Creamery. This is the ice cream that is served for dessert in heaven. I’m 100% sure of that.
3. What is your favorite dish that you want to prepare at home?
My favorite food at home is the basket we prepare for the blessing on Holy Saturday. Slovenian sausage (Raddells Sausage Shopof course) Hren (Slovenian for horseradish that we pull from the farm) hard-boiled painted eggs, homemade kruha (Slovenian bread), potica (a Slovenian walnut and raisin roll that is like an edible sleeping bag of love). This Slovenian Catholic meal has so many similarities to the food our Jewish sisters and brothers celebrate on Passover. Eating is one world of all of us. Are we aware?
4. Favorite place to take away?
Astoria is my favorite take away place. The calamari and horiatiki salad are fantastic as is everything else on the menu and what I order.
5. As President of Global Cleveland, what do you think of the international food scene in Cleveland?
The international food scene in Cleveland is extraordinary. From Repping continents around the world to the feeling of being in a kitchen. Empress Taytu Ethiopian Restaurant St. Clair has this mood by 10. We need these places now more than ever. The past four years have been merciless for immigrants from a federal standpoint, and economically dumb for our nation. The last year has been brutal for our local food scene. Would you like to support your city and community and be xenophobic? That’s it. We have so many families who share their beauty with us. We need this beauty now more than ever. Every place I’ve listed has immigrant roots. Bridges, not walls, we have and need more in Cleveland. Peace be with you.