Cru Rendering

Originally published in Crain's Cleveland

A list of things are beginning to align — a name change; the start of hiring nearly 40 employees; and the naming of John Stropki, executive chef for eight years with Eaton Corp., as the new executive chef — that mean a spring opening of a new high-end French-American restaurant in Moreland Hills is on track.

Cru Uncorked, previously planned to be called Cru Cuisine, is set to open in April at the intersection of Chagrin Boulevard and SOM Center Road. Designed by two firms — Kawalek Architects and Larsen Architects Inc. — Cru Uncorked will resemble a French country chateau, according to Bill Cutler, co-owner along with his parents, Sandy and Sarah Cutler. Sandy Cutler is the retired chairman and CEO of Eaton Corp.

Bill Cutler, who studied culinary arts in Italy for a year and at the International Culinary Arts and Sciences Institute in Chesterland, brings to the project more than 10 years of education and work experience at such restaurants as the Baricelli Inn and the Blue Point Grille. Cru Uncorked, he said, "is a unique concept that is being custom-built to bring our dream alive."

The experience will start, he said, with the building itself.

"When people pull in, they will see exposed aggregate in a roundabout with a large, focal-point fountain. We will have complimentary valet service, but spaces if people prefer to park their own cars."

The point, he said, is to provide a feeling of being pampered from the minute of arrival.

“We want people to take time to enjoy the food and the atmosphere”

Inside, the "modern/rustic" interior is being designed by Barbara Gisel Design of Philadelphia and will include a long foyer, a focal-point fireplace and a vaulted ceiling. Four themed dining rooms in the 9,500-square-foot facility will seat 108 guests. The dining areas will be separated by curtains — an "open concept" with limited table-to-table visibility for privacy, said Bill Cutler.

There also will be an additional 32 outdoor seasonal seats. Flooring, to continue the French chateau feel, will be parquet, and the ceiling will feature intersecting archways. The restaurant also will include a banquet hall and bar area.

"The bar will be open only to those with dinner reservations," said Bill Cutler. "They can come a bit early and have a pre-dinner cocktail, take time and relax over dinner, and then go back to the bar for dessert or cheese plate. It's very European-style."

The cuisine will be "more refined, not as rustic." Dubbed French/New American, the menu will emphasize fresh local ingredients and draw from French influences. Some 6,000 bottles of wine will be on hand, with 1,400 bottles in a temperature-controlled wine cellar.

"We want people to take time to enjoy the food and the atmosphere," said Cutler. "We do not want the customers to feel rushed."

He added, "Tables will have 3½ feet between them, and the entire restaurant is handicapped accessible. No steps at all."

While not sharing financial details, Cutler said construction is running on time and doors at Cru Uncorked will open in April, if the weather cooperates.

"Overall, we've stayed true to our concept," he added. "I received great (business) advice once to not take on too much at once, and you won't be overwhelmed, and it will all get done."