By Courtney Byrnes
With a continuously updated menu and a rotating list of live musicians, each visit to Wolf Pack Chorus can offer something fresh.
The restaurant, boasting globally-inspired cuisine, opened in Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood in March. The duo behind the new concept at 2175 Cornell Road are co-owners Chris and Katie Wolf, residents of Cleveland Heights.
“We kind of do whatever we feel like doing,” Chris Wolf, who is also chef, tells Jstyle. “We look at seasonality of things, produce, and try to be lighter in the summer and we’ll go into heavier braises and things in the winter. But, (we’re) just kind of doing what we think tastes good and what we like to eat.”
The restaurant is open five days a week – Wednesday through Sunday – and has a brunch (on Sundays), lunch, dinner and drink menu that changes seasonally with influences from around the world. Dishes are made with the ability to share in mind.
Being in Little Italy, the Wolfs did not want to compete, especially with the neighborhood’s long-established eateries, but instead offer something new.
“What we’re bringing in is a younger, hipper vibe,” says Chris, who grew up a congregant of The Temple-Tifereth Israel in Beachwood with his family.
“There aren’t a lot of sit-down and eclectic menus like us in this area,” adds Katie, who grew up in Cleveland and Chester Township. “So, it was nice to kind of be the new kids on the block and have a new, fresh menu that gets updated on a regular basis.”
In its first six months, WPC has hosted several local musicians, from solo acoustic guitarists, pianists and DJs to a private event with Shout Band, a 15-piece local band.
The restaurant is located at the original site of the Agora Theatre, now on Euclid Ave., and the former Club Isabella, and live music pays homage to the musical history of the space.
And while the name is a play on the owners’ family name, it also plays into the musical connection as Katie explains “a pack of wolves that howl together is called a chorus” – hence Wolf Pack Chorus.
“It almost told us what it wants to be,” she says. “And WPC is a little catchy, and yeah, we’re the Wolfs.”
The Wolfs met at Fox’s Sports Bar & Grille in Lyndhurst, although they cannot agree on where exactly they had sat. They married in February 2020, and were on their honeymoon as the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns began.
Opening a restaurant in Little Italy is a full-circle moment for the couple as Katie says one of their first dates was at the Little Italy Feast of the Assumption, a four-day summer Catholic street festival in the neighborhood.
While Chris has spent most of his career cooking in country clubs and resorts, including most recently at Shaker Heights Country Club, he never dreamed of opening a restaurant, he says. But, last summer he decided to take the leap.
And Katie – who says she used to refer to herself as a “kitchen widow” as the long country club hours often kept them apart – was right by his side.
“It was do it now or never, and so we’ve kind of just jumped in it,” Chris says of opening WPC.
Katie recalls receiving a call from her husband after he put in his notice to leave the country club and how they felt uncertainty, but hope for the future.
“For our little family, which is just the two of us and our dog, it was time for him to move on and see what he could do on his own,” she says.
Next, the Wolfs began driving around looking for potential locations. They looked even beyond the east side, but settled on the Little Italy location, just a short walk from their home.
Getting the keys at the end of September 2022, they made updates to the decor and kitchen to be able to open in March. The space has its own parking lot, a rarity in the neighborhood, and a liquor license – major pluses.
Inside, the restaurant is chic and funky. Its understated yet fine dining-appropriate seating is complemented by flashy accents, like attention-grabbing artwork on the walls – fittingly of some swanky looking wolves and plenty of florals – and a piano near the center of the dining room.
While the restaurant is larger than they had been looking for, the Wolfs can already envision the growth they can have in the space. With a capacity of 93 seated inside or 150 not seated, and a patio that seats 40, WPC can serve individual and family meals, and host private parties.
They hope to remodel and update the patio, possibly to be functional for three seasons, and to add a structure outside. And once finished, an under-construction upstairs space could be used for private parties – from showers to b’nai mitzvahs to celebrations of life – or could be turned into a speakeasy for college students, given its proximity to Case Western Reserve University, Katie says.
Also going for the space is its location to University Hospitals, University Circle and Severance Music Center. Even the other restaurants have been very welcoming, Katie says.
The menu options are creative, fresh and well presented. The ahi tuna’s ginger scallion sauce adds a rich flavor to the fish and vegetable-based medley. The garganelli pasta is creamy and flavorful. The mix of small plates, sandwiches, salads and main dishes ensures guests can order a healthy mix of greens, vegetables and lighter fare, and some more decadent options to share.
In only its first year of business, WPC is taking it day by day, learning what the needs and wants of the community are, and how they can serve them, the owners explain.
“Every day this year is the first day for us,” Katie says. “We don’t have any data, we don’t know what that day will bring yet. So, we have a lot of optimism and a lot of hope that people come down and give us a chance.”