A guy walks into a bar … and buys a restaurant.

Actually he bought four, the Bricco restaurants that have collected loyal fans since the first one opened in 2003 and helped to rejuvenate a stretch of downtown.

“We hashed it all out that night,” Dave Sharp said, recalling meeting Bricco owner Dave Glenny at the Northside Speakeasy last September.

“I found a lawyer and I found the banker the next day, and then I just started having meetings and started the [purchase] process," Sharp said.

Sharp hadn’t met Glenny before that evening in the bar, but he knew him and his operation by reputation. “I’ve always respected Dave and Bricco,” Sharp said.

The deal closed earlier this month. Financial terms are not being revealed.

Glenny, in an interview for the story I wrote earlier this month about the purchase, said that he was tired and wanted to move on after overseeing Bricco’s growth from a single restaurant to five in the area.

So why is Sharp, with more than two decades of corporate chain experience, mostly with Macaroni Grill, snapping up the Briccos, restaurants that take pride in their local-ness?

Have no fear, the Walsh Jesuit High School graduate is not going to turn them into chain-style eateries.

He’s hungry to use both his corporate chops — such as using data to improve operations — and his fine-dining skills. He's co-owner of the Northside Speakeasy, Local Brew bar and DBA restaurant, all in the Northside district. 

“I don’t want to change the heart and soul” of Bricco, he said. "We’ll still make everything fresh. I’m not going to start getting food in frozen bags or anything like that.”

Prices on some dishes may inch up, but he said, “”If I can get away making the food better and not changing the price, that’s what I’m going to do.”

It’s too soon to talk about specific changes to the menus, he said, other than he plans to come up with eight or nine new or existing signature dishes that will be available at all of the restaurants.

He cited the popular calamari (Parmesan crusted and tossed with chorizo sausage, peppers and a creamy Parmesan dressing), risotto balls (risotto, pancetta and smoked mozzarella), and shrimp and scallops (pan-seared with bacon and served with scallion risotto, white wine butter and green beans) as three that would make the cut for this list of favorites.

“If it has Bricco on the door, you know you can order those,” Sharp said. In addition to the downtown location, there are Briccos in the Merriman Valley, in Kent and inside the Doubletree Hotel in Fairlawn. 

The biggest change in the near future likely will be an overhaul of the menu at Pub Bricco, in the Valley. The idea is to give it more of an Irish pub feel, with items such as shepherd’s pie and fish and chips. Popular sandwiches will remain and the signature dishes will be added.

There are no big interior changes on the way. “I love the décor,” Sharp said. “I think it’s very kind of neutral. We definitely want to install some new lights, fixtures and upholstery where needed."

Banquet menus will be redone. Sharp’s wife, Stacy, is a partner in the business and event manager.

Sharp and his partners, including Michael Spaulding, a onetime line cook who worked for Sharp at the Macaroni Grill in Montrose, did not acquire the Bricco Prime on Manchester Road in New Franklin. It had been open for less than two years. Sharp said earlier that he couldn’t reach a deal on a new lease.

He also is talking about setting up a fund to benefit families of restaurant workers who die or suffer from mental health issues.

"Our goal is really to give back to the community that has been hit so hard,” by deaths within the industry.

“We can be competitive,” Sharp said, “and try to be better than the next, but we don’t have to do it at the expense of life and treasure."

 

Bigger taste

Taste of Akron has become so popular, the city has decided to spread the food love over two nights.

The grub fest, featuring local restaurants and food trucks offering samples, will be offered from 6 to 10 p.m. July 25 and 26. Restaurants will set up on July 25, and the following night, the food trucks will roll in.

The prices haven’t changed. Patrons buy tickets for $2 each, and food samples cost one, two or three tickets. The event, in its 13th year, will be at Hardesty Park in the Wallhaven neighborhood of Akron.

The new setup will allow for more restaurants on the first night and more food trucks on the second, said Laurie Chenevey, Akron community event coordinator.

And the city is scrapping the Summer Uncorked wine, beer and food event. Instead, 10 beer and wine samples will be offered for $20 under a tent each night from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. There also will be beer and wine available for purchase.

Taste of Akron is the lead-in to the annual Akron Arts Expo weekend at Hardesty. All of the events are organized by the city of Akron.

Hours for the Arts Expo are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 27, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 28. Go to http://akronartsexpo.org for information, including the entertainment schedule and details on activities, including a Sip and Paint event at 12:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Hardesty Park is at 1615 W. Market St.

We’ll have more on the Taste of Akron closer to the event.

 

Primavara! fest

Let the big Romanian repast begin!

The Primavara! festival of spring runs from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday at Presentation of Our Lord Orthodox Church in Fairlawn.

Primavara is Romanian for springtime (the Italians spell in primavera). And these folks enthusiastically celebrate it, opening up their church to the public and offering lots of ethnic food, including cabbage rolls, mamaliga (the Romanian version of polenta with sour cream and cheese), cucumber salad, pastries and more.

Among the savory items will be the vegan and vegetarian mushroom stew called tocana de ciuperci.

Some of the church members will be behind the church, grilling the garlicky mititei (pronounced meaty-TAY). They are caseless sausages of seasoned ground beef and pork, and often lamb. I like to think of them as mini grilled meatloaves. They’re served with condiments and bread, much like hot dogs.

Admission is free; you buy the food. Romanian beer, other brews and wine will be available for sale. Ethnic dancers and musicians will perform throughout the day.

A seemingly endless array of sweet items will be in the “International Café” area: the 10-layer dobosi torte, finiqia (date-filled cookies), baklava, Russian tea cakes, Hungarian cremsnit (custard puff pastry), rulori (cream horns), salvarino (syrup-soaked cake with fresh cream in the middle), tiramisu and more.

Children can take short rides on miniature horses as they participate in the telling of a Romanian folk fairy tale, and they'll receive minciunele, small delicate pastries. “They disappear so fast in your mouth, you don’t know they were there,” said church member Sally Shantz, noting the cookies are called “little lies.”

Alex Gata, who heads the youth group at the church, and other younger parishioners raised money to help pay for the horses’ visit.

The church is at 3365 Ridgewood Road in Fairlawn. There is ample parking on the church grounds. For details, go to www.festivalofspring.org.

 

Old European Days

For your calendar: Another big ethnic fest, the Old European Days at the German Family Society in Brimfield, is coming June 22-23.

Ethnic food is the big attraction here, along with beer, dancing and children's games.

The Donau Park grounds at 371 Ranfield Road in Brimfield include shaded areas, as well as an air-conditioned main building in which to eat and hang out.

 

Wine events

• Meet golfer and winemaker Ben Curtis from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Acme Fresh Market in Montrose, 3979 Medina Road, state Route 18.

Curtis, former British Open Champ and Kent State graduate, will autograph purchases of his Fairway & Vines chardonnay ($14.99) and red blend ($19.99).

Curtis and his wife, Candace, Stow natives, are part-owners of Treno Ristorante, an Italian eatery that opened in Kent in 2017.

• The Cellar Room at the Galaxy complex, at 201 Park Center Drive in Wadsworth, near Interstate 76, will host a "Think Spring" wine tasting at 7 p.m. Wednesday featuring about a dozen wines and light appetizers. Cost is $40. To reserve, go to galaxyrestaurant.com. For information, call 330-334-3663.

• Local wine importer John Bee hosts a wine dinner at 6 p.m. May 22 at Wise Guys Lounge and Grill, 1008 N. Main St. in Akron’s North Hill neighborhood. Cost is $65 and reservations are recommended. Call 330-922-3006 after 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

• The Mustard Seed Market & Cafe at 3885 W. Market St. in Bath will host a Welcome Back Summer wine tasting, featuring 20 light-bodied reds, whites and roses from 7 to 9 p.m. May 24. Light appetizers, cheeses, breads and “something sweet” will be included. Tickets are $35 at eventbrite.com or $40 at the door. Reservations also can be made by calling 330-666-7333.

 

Send local food news to Katie Byard at 330-996-3781 or kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com. You can follow her @KatieByardABJ on Twitter or on Facebook.