Bell Flower Clinic Greenfield


Plain Dealer file photoRestaurateur Zach Bruell

A longtime landmark restaurant in the University Circle area is set for transformation. The former That Place on Bellflower will soon reopen as a moderately priced neo-brasserie with a new name.

The man behind the reinvention is one of Cleveland's most creative and exacting restaurateurs: Zach Bruell, chef-owner of Parallax in Tremont and creator of Table 45 at the Cleveland Clinic's InterContinental Hotel and Conference Center.

"I've called for a 60-day deadline for reopening, " Bruell said Thursday, Sept. 4. He's confident that the tradesmen and other workers will meet his goal of welcoming guests by the end of October. The architectural firm of Westlake Reed Leskosky is refurbishing the structure, consisting of a pair of circa 1912 carriage houses and a more recent addition.

For years, That Place drew an ardent clientele -- artists, university students and faculty, physicians and others from the nearby University Hospitals and the Clinic, as well as area residents. They were attracted to its tudoresque architecture, moody interior and reliable bistro fare. Among the key attractions was the longtime doyenne of the dining room, owner Isabella Basile.

Plain Dealer file photoGenerations of artists, students, university faculty and University Circle area residents have doted on That Place on Bellflower. Soon, restaurateur Zach Bruell will reopen it as L'Albatro.

But in May, the 89-year-old Basile decided it was time to step away from the restaurant business. Case Western Reserve University, which owns the property, decided to search for a new lessee to operate a restaurant in the space.

"He (Bruell) brings quality and excellence to whatever he'll do -- and that's very important to the university, " said Lara Kalafatis, vice-president of university relations for CWRU. "His excellent food and excellent service will serve our campus community, students, faculty and staff, as well as the neighborhood and visitors to our area."

At the moment, however, the place is a wreck. As with many old structures, its previous construction and maintenance involved a mishmash of materials, make-do patching and jury-rigging.

Thus, a major gutting is under way. Once the infrastructure is brought up to current codes, Bruell intends to maintain the architectural integrity of the roughly 4, 000-square-foot space. Four small dining rooms and the main bar-lounge area are being designed to seat about 112 guests. Refurbishing the patio seating off the rear of the building will be tackled in 2009.

Bruell and CWRU officials settled on the modern brasserie theme "because it's perfect for the neighborhood, " Bruell said. "Historically, they were places where artists and writers and students hung out. A lot of those people didn't have much money. I'm aiming for high-end quality at lower prices."

To that end, he's installing a pizza oven to do various flatbreads and developing a menu that emphasizes rustic, earthy dishes. Bruell envisions a $15 check average.

In keeping with the French influence, Bruell's choice of a name seems as unlikely as his new space is uncommon. He has settled on L'Albatro, shortened from "albatross." But unlike the ancient bird that symbolizes "a constant, worrisome burden" -- appropriate enough to anyone who's ever operated a restaurant -- Bruell chose the name because of its meaning to an inveterate golfer such as himself.

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