Born: 1933, Cincinnati
Married to: Katherine (Kitty) Strauss
Lives in: Hyde Park
Philanthropic impact: With late wife, Lois, established the Rosenthal New Play Prize at the Playhouse in the Park; endowed free admission to the Cincinnati Art Museum; donated $5
million to build the Contemporary Arts Center Downtown; cofounded the Ohio
Innocence Project, the Rosey Reader Program (which donates books to Cincinnati Public School elementary students), and Uptown Arts. Named a Great Living Cincinnatian in 2013.
What’s your favorite food memory from childhood?
My mother was frugal, especially with food. What we didn’t eat went into a pot, and we used to have “Soup of the Month” (though it must have been more frequently). We couldn’t wait—we wouldn’t finish our dinners so the leftovers would go into the soup. And I’ve been asking every place I can think to ask about tomato aspic. And it doesn’t exist anymore. Mom served it on a bed of lettuce with a dab of mayonnaise and I was in heaven.
You’ve recently returned from a family trip to Israel and Jordan. Did you eat any standout meals during your travels?
In Jaffa, at a Jordanian restaurant right along the seacoast, we were served 20 little bowls, maybe more, of all kinds of stuff—veggies, meat, fish. I love sampling everything so I almost made it through all 20, just taking a little forkful. We had hummus by the carload, like you’ve never had before. And the baklava—it was out of this world!
Cook at home or eat out?
For awhile after Kitty and I got married, we were going out several nights a week. But we do like to eat at home. Right now, when it’s cold enough and we’re eating at home, Kitty and I will build a fire and have dinner in the living room.
Where do you enjoy dining out?
I love trying new restaurants. I really like Forno—Cristian [Pietoso] always walks through the dining room; he’s part of the ambiance. The new cafe at the CAC is great—it’s like the CAC itself: unique, contemporary, and very tasty. And I had lunch last week at Taft’s Ale House; my friend said, “Dick, this is the best tri-tip steak I’ve ever had!”
Folks know you as a patron of the arts, but you’ve also supported food and hunger initiatives. How did that get started?
Lois’s family was in the business—her grandparents owned Bilker’s, a kosher-style deli. She joined the Freestore Foodbank board and saw that there was no fresh food. So she started that whole program, working with Bob Castellini to bring in fresh produce. We were very involved with Cincinnati Cooks since its beginning. How is food creating new opportunity in Cincinnati?
I say, “Hooray hooray!” for people experimenting and opening all these new places. If I were 50 years younger, I’d start a restaurant called The Quiet Restaurant. And I’d serve “Soup of the Month.”