Get to know Triv’s Restaurant and Lounge Head Chef Matt Gillombardo

Triv’s Restaurant and Lounge in Strongsville has been a local favorite since it opened in 2008.  Cleveland area residents have come to love dining at Triv’s because they can enjoy a high-end, quality meal in a relaxed, yet chic atmosphere.  Chef Matt Gillombardo, 37, has been at Triv’s since the early days (9 years now) and he has been committed to making Triv’s one of the finest restaurants around since day one.  “I don’t own this restaurant…but I feel like I do.  I love this place as much as Mike, our owner, himself, and I put my heart and soul into it,” he said. 

This wouldn’t surprise the regulars that come to Triv’s one bit. Gillombardo said that they are like family to him and that it’s not unusual for someone to ask him to prepare whatever he feels like cooking that night.  I was fortunate to find some time in this busy chef’s schedule to sit down with him at Triv’s and learn more about the chef who has helped bring a booming restaurant scene to the city of Strongsville.

Hi Matt, nice to meet you finally.  I’d love to let our readers learn a little about you since you are a driving force behind the success here at Triv’s.  Triv’s didn’t get the reputation it has without having a great chef behind the scenes.  So first, let me ask: Are you from the Cleveland area?

Yes, actually.  I grew up in Parma.

Who or what inspired you to get into the culinary field?  When did you know that you wanted to be a chef?

My family has been in the food business for years.  My father owned Gillombardo’s Giant Eagle and my grandfather started the business a long, long time ago as a little food stand at West Side Market. So I’ve been around the food industry my entire life.  

I started cooking with my mom when I was four or five years old.  She’s the best cook.  She’s Polish so she cooks all those great Polish dishes; and she has an Italian flair that comes from my dad’s side of the family.  When I was 16, I started in a culinary vocational program in high school and as soon as I graduated I attended The Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts in Pittsburgh.

Do you have any specific food or restaurant memories from your childhood?

Absolutely! Every Sunday after church my entire family–my cousins, my aunts and uncles and my grandparents would meet at Sammy G’s in Seven Hills.  Chef Sam Gambetta had a fantastic place with amazing food and we would eat there every single Sunday as I was growing up.  Definitely a great childhood memory that is stuck in my head.

Do you have children to continue this tradition on with?

Yes, I have a son who is seven and a daughter who is 12.

And do they have a favorite meal that they request from their dad, the chef?

Actually, rack of lamb.  It’s their favorite.

Really?!  Usually when I think of rack of lamb, I think of it as a holiday meal.  It’s common for your kids to request that on, say, a Wednesday evening in the middle of June?

Oh, yeah. That’s just normal life in my house. They love it. 

With so many great restaurants like Triv’s around to choose from, I’m interested to know: What’s your favorite restaurant to eat at when you have free time to go out and enjoy a good meal?

I enjoy going to restaurants that are family-owned versus corporate or chain.  When you’re in an independently owned restaurant, you know you’re going to get quality and an experience more like being a guest in someone’s home rather than just a customer. There are several that I like to support, but some of the local places like Don’s Pomeroy House, Square 22 and J Bella are great. 

I notice a lot of action back in the kitchen as we sit here and talk and it’s several hours before dinner still.  I don’t think people realize the kind of hours that chefs put in.  What time does your day typically begin and end?

I’m usually here at 8:30 a.m. and typically don’t leave until at least 10:30 p.m.  We are open for lunch as well and are lucky to have a good crowd daily.  The amount of hours we put in is insane. You have to really love what you do to be in this business and my staff and I really do. 

Is there a signature dish that people associate with Triv’s?

We have a few: The coffee-crusted strip steak and the caramelized salmon are fan favorites. They sell all year long. If we ever took them off the menu, we would actually lose business because people would be very upset. Also, our C.A.B. Prime Rib on Monday nights is popular as well.

Lastly, do you have a favorite time of the year to cook and prepare dishes?

Without a doubt, it’s fall. Cooking in the fall is great. There are so many great flavors that you can use for fall-oriented dishes. You can go a little bit heartier as you start to get into the colder months. And you can make so many fantastic soups too. Our French Onion soup is a staple here. People love it.