Tim Smith’s interest in a culinary career was sparked 25 years ago, when the then-11-year-old worked as a busboy at the Sheldon Inn in Berea. It grew through the years as he advanced through the ranks, taking turns serving, bartending and managing at various eateries around town.
The idea of eventually owning a restaurant was one Smith and his wife, Jamie Porrello, often discussed. Porrello’s passion for cooking began when she was a youngster and helped her Italian grandmother, Dodie, in the kitchen of their Connecticut home.
“Jamie cooks really great meals,” Smith says. “We would joke that we should open a restaurant and share them.”
That conversation began in earnest after their daughter was born prematurely, which necessitated her spending time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Cleveland Clinic. To alleviate the stress, the couple drafted a menu of what they would serve.
That bill of fare became a reality in 2020, when Dodie’s Dockside, named after Porrello’s grandmother, opened in the restored Ariel Broadway Hotel by Cobblestone in Lorain.
Located on the first floor of the 55-room hotel, which dates back to 1925, Dodie’s Dockside offers magnificent views of Lake Erie, the lighthouse and the Black River. It is decorated with historic nautical-themed photos and abstract paintings by Lila Rose Kole. There’s also a family wall featuring pictures of Dodie, along with a map of Italy, the country she emigrated from.
Smith and Porrello describe the menu as “coastal fare with an Italian twist.” It features traditional seaside food popular in Connecticut, where Porrello hails from, along with recipes from her family, fine-tuned by head chef Brian Whalen.
“Some customers come in and say ‘I love New England lobster rolls, and I can’t believe you guys are doing this here,’” Smith says. “Other customers comment that they’ve never eaten anything like this in Ohio. Either way, we’re turning people on to something different — and that’s the cool part about it.”
Owners Tim Smith and Jamie Porrello invite you to try three of their most-requested entrées.
What seafood lover can resist 6 ounces of prime lobster meat (tail, knuckle and claw) sautéed in butter and placed on a toasted buttered roll that’s just the right size? “We serve it with more butter and fries,” Smith says. “There’s a little part of you that feels like you’re really being naughty when you eat it.”
Not only does Dodie’s not skimp on the size of the scallops, but it also serves them sautéed on a bed of lobster risotto with a dash of lobster bisque. “We didn’t plan on it being one of our popular dishes,” Smith says, “but Brian adds 4 ounces of lobster meat to the risotto, so it’s the best of both worlds.”
A homage to Porrello’s heritage, the ziti is made much the way the couple prepares it at home. The red sauce simmers for four to six hours, and garlic juice is added to the meatball mixture for extra zing. “It’s not a difficult dish to make,” Smith says. “It’s the seasonings we use that make it to die for.”