Fall in love with the flavor at Molinari's

170809 M7221 817
Molinari’s Chicken Four Seasons is tender chicken sautéed with Prosciutto, roasted peppers, artichoke hearts and sliced portobello mushrooms in a lemon vodka cream sauce served atop a scallion risotto cake. (Photography by Benjamin Margalit/Margalit Studio)

By Mary Malik

Randal Johnson has been keeping things fresh as the chef/owner of Molinari’s in Mentor for nearly 26 years. What started out as a break from the long hours of the restaurant business quickly turned into a whole new restaurant venture, and he’s never looked back.

“It was the early 90s and I had young kids I wanted to see once in awhile,” says Randal. 

“I needed a break from the 16-hour days but wanted to stay in the food business, so I started Molinari’s as a food and wine store in 1991. I also gave cooking classes, and that’s where the restaurant idea came up.”

Just when Randal thought he had escaped the hectic schedule of the restaurant business, his cooking class students suggested opening a restaurant right there in the middle of the new store. 

“One cooking student was an architect and another a contractor,” says Randal. “They said how easy it would be to drop a small restaurant into the existing space. It all happened very quickly, and in July of 1992 we opened the 26-seat restaurant.”

170809M5526-817.jpg?mtime=20170927141624#asset:37529


Even today, you can see the pride Randal takes in each hand-prepared meal served at Molinari’s. 

“Every day we also have 10 specials on the menu,” says Randal. “I source the food locally wherever I can and work with local farmers. We offer the freshest seasonal ingredients and have some fun with our selections. Keeping it fresh is my motto.”

Keeping it reasonably priced is also important to Randal. Molinari’s was the first restaurant in Ohio to offer a wine program where patrons are charged retail prices for bottles of wine for takeout or to drink in house with a nominal additional $5 corking charge. 

“This is a great program we offer our customers,” says Randal. “We carry a selection of over 300 wines at all different price points but you will never pay more than state minimum retail. That’s 50-70 percent less per bottle.”

Randal has been in the restaurant business long enough to know the last thing you want to do is price yourself out of business. However keeping things as fresh as possible, as he demands, is costly. The wine program allows customers to experience high-end dining with the freshest ingredients prepared in creative ways without the eye-popping bill.

Another way to experience the fresh ingredients and unique preparations of Molinari’s is to try one of the eight specialty pizzas from the stone pizza oven. 

“We added the pizza kitchen eight years ago,” says Randal. “We get creative with the toppings, using what’s fresh, of course, and couples love coming in to share a pizza and a bottle of wine in our cozy bar area.”

Another addition Molinari’s made was expanding into an adjacent space to add a room that accommodates parties of up to 50 people for everything from corporate events to small weddings and celebrations. 

Although Molinari’s is Italian at heart, they also do steaks, chops and seafood along with fresh pasta and pizzas. All of that along with craft beers and specialty drinks—Molinari’s clearly has something for everyone.

“Whatever is fresh,” says Randal. 

I just knew he’d say that. 

Molinari’s is located at 8900 Mentor Avenue, in Mentor. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 4:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. For reservations call 440-974-2750, or make a reservation on the website at Molinaris.com, where you can also sign up for the newsletter containing free offers.

Categories: Lake County Food