When considering where to dine on great Italian food, the choices can sometimes be overwhelming; however, if there is one way to make that decision is to consider the history behind great restaurants. LockKeepers is a restaurant with not only great dishes, but with an intriguing history behind its name, location, and founder as well. The food within has a strong and delicious connection to both the Italian ancestry and the dedication it takes to make it. Even the design of the building itself reflects the history of its surrounding area by paying homage to the importance of the canals and the lock keepers who operated them.
Nearly thirty years ago, entrepreneur Frank Sinito bought the building for the original Lockkeepers while still attending college. With uneven floorboards and a kitchen fitted into the basement, Frank continued to study while tending the bar and improving the building, and his hard work would eventual sculpt his restaurant into a successful establishment. Opened in 1992 within the Cuyahoga Valley, the building was still small, and the name was still new, but as the years past, LockKeepers’ reputation grew. Frank managed to keep the business afloat while also tending to his other business just above the restaurant. With his wife Malisse, Frank put in effort and enthusiasm that has been reflected in the cuisine and service since the day it was opened.
Not only does the building itself have great history behind it, but the actual name of the restaurant has an intriguing story of its own that many may not know or may not have understood. The title of the restaurant is inspired from an occupation titled lock keeper or lock tender, which is a person who tends to a canal or river lock by maintaining it and controlling its water levels. Oftentimes, lock keepers would live at these locations. Although the job is not as popular as it was many years ago, the name still holds importance in the Cuyahoga area. Within the restaurant, it is clear that the history of the lock keepers and the canals in the area had a heavy influence on its most recent design. In 2002, LockKepers was reopened with fresh architecture and a classy interior to match, and the exterior design is a clear homage to the history of the importance of the canals. This structure certainly sparks curiosity with its design, especially for younger individuals who may have never heard the term lock keeper or who don’t understood what the lock keepers used to do. Just as Italians pass traditions down to the next generation, LockKeepers seems to teach others about Ohioan history. As the restaurant proudly takes its title, it’s apparent that the duty of the lock keepers and the importance of the Cuyahoga canals will never be forgotten.
Along with the impact of the surrounding location, the rich history and Italian influence is noticeable as well with LockKeepers’ gorgeous fare. While illustrating versatility with a variety of cuisines, the food has a strong connection to the heritage that made it possible. There is an enormous selection of dinner and lunch combinations for even the pickiest of eater, and there is no doubt that there will be a new dish to enjoy with every visit. For some, they may enjoy the seafood fra diavolo, consisting of house-made spaghetti, lobster, mussels, clams, shrimp, and a spicy tomato broth. Others may prefer the long bone veal chop parmigiano, which is breaded, fried, and topped with fresh mozzarella cheese and marinara. Or perhaps the long bone pork chop saltimbocca is more apt to one’s taste, as it is stuffed with fontina cheese and sage, wrapped in prosciutto, and severed with marsala mushroom sauce. Each dish is handmade in the restaurant with the most loving of techniques, and a traditional delicacy is applied to each meal to achieve that special taste reminiscent of Italian food.
Not only does LockKeepers offer good food and a sophisticated atmosphere for its guests, but there are private dining options available for large groups as well. The entire second floor of the restaurant is available for anyone who needs it, and there is space available for a variety of crowds. Up to 155 people can be seated, and a full array of customizable menus for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and buffets are available as well. Whether for a business event, celebration, or a social get-together, the grand ballroom is an excellent way of gathering friends, family, or coworkers together for an Italian feast like no other.
Over the years, LockKeepers has gained not only popularity amongst many of its customers, but it has earned great prestige as well. In July of 2017, LockKeepers received Wine Spectator’s Best Award of Excellence for the grand selection of wine available in the restaurant. The restaurant and its owners were also featured in multiple programs and journal, including The Plain Dealer, The Cleveland Women’s Journal, and local news channels such as WKYC Channel 3 and Fox 8.
As LockKeepers continues to please customers with its food while gaining popularity with its reputable service, the restaurant is now managed by Brian Woehrman, who keeps the enthusiasm and respect of Italian food alive within the restaurant. After spending years working in restaurants and gaining experience in manager positions, Brian joined the LockKeepers staff and worked his way up to general manager, where he now successfully regulates the highly acclaimed establishment, allowing it to live up to its reputation. “We’re really proud of what we do here,” says Brian while voicing his pride about LockKeepers with how far it has come. “We serve fresh, authentic Italian cuisine in an upscale environment, and we’re sure to offer warm hospitality to anyone who dines with us.”