Ambrose and Eve's focus on family extends deep into its food offerings
Ambrose and Eve's focus on family extends everywhere from the restaurant's handle — it's named for cofounder Catie Randazzo's grandparents — to a majority of the items offered up by the kitchen. Here are the stories behind a trio of items diners can sample at the new Brewery District eatery.
Macaroni and Cheese
Matthew Heaggans might be joking when he talks about almost fighting a Yelp reviewer who had harsh words for the macaroni and cheese served by the chef during a prolonged pop-up stint at the Hey Hey Bar and Grill in German Village. Might.
“I knew who it was, and I wanted to fight them,” he said, smiling. “‘Why are you talking about my mama? I will fight you.'”
Family roots run deep in Heaggans' mac and cheese, which he has developed over the years, refining a recipe learned from his late mother, Lynne Mitchell-Heaggans. It's made with a custard rather than a roux, which Heaggans said is typical of the Southeast region (his father's family has deep ties to North Carolina).
“My mom used to just mix everything together with some eggs and cheese and onion flakes and seasoning, and then bake it,” he said.
At Ambrose and Eve, the custard is developed independently and then integrated with the rest of the ingredients, which include both pantry staples familiar to Heaggans' mother (Velveeta, “regular-ass elbow macaroni”) and touches designed to elevate the dish (fresh aromatics, extra eggs and cream). The result is a creamy, cheesy side that manages to transport Heaggans to childhood while maintaining footing in a more upscale environ.
“I don't think that is anywhere near as good as hers,” Heaggans said, gesturing to a pot of his take on the staple. “But at the heart I think it's the same thing.”
Veal Parmesan was the first dish developed by Randazzo for the restaurant, inspired by childhood dinners routinely served up by her grandmother, Eve.
“Whenever we would go over to her house for dinner it was a big deal, and she would pretty much always make veal Parmesan — except it wasn't veal, it was chicken,” said Randazzo, who lovingly described her grandmother as “a little nutty.” “It was her belief that if she pounded it thin enough that no one would know the difference.”
Initially, Randazzo and Heaggans considered a more literal version of the dish made with chicken and listed as “Veal” Parmesan on the menu. After consideration, though, Randazzo opted to riff on the spirit of her grandmother's take while holding true to the classic, adopting veal sweetbreads as the central protein.
“Sweetbreads are like the best chicken nuggets in the world, so it was reminiscent of the chicken but we're actually using veal, which is true to the dish,” Randazzo said. “Then we spice it up by using a raspberry marinara because the berries can cut through the fattiness of the dish and give it a nice balance.”
Cereal Milk Pancakes
Catie Randazzo's father wasn't much of a cook, but he did know how to make two things perfectly, the first being pancakes.
“They would cover an entire paper plate, and he would very meticulously cut them so they were perfectly symmetrical before he served them,” she said. “Then, as his pancake game started to develop, he would add weird shit into the pancakes. Honey Nut Cheerios is the one I remember the most.”
These Saturday morning syrup-soakers serve as the inspiration for one of Ambrose and Eve's brunch dishes: Cereal Milk Pancakes, made with Ohio maple syrup and cinnamon streusel.
As for the other dish that Randazzo's father perfected? That would be spaghetti sauce, which doesn't turn up on the current menu but might surface at the restaurant down the road.
“I'm sure at some point we'll do a spaghetti dinner here on a Sunday or Monday night and have him come in and make a bunch of big batches,” Randazzo said. “Actually, on the [Ambrose and Eve] Kickstarter, one of the rewards was to learn how to make his sauce with him, but he bought it. … He was like, ‘Nope. The secret's staying with me.'”