More than pizza
A shortlist of notable Italian restaurants in metro Detroit
Published: June 22, 2011
$=$5-$10; $$=$10-$25; $$$=$25-$50; $$$$=$50+
Amici's Pizza and Living Room 3249 W. 12 Mile Rd., Berkley; 248-544-4100; amicispizza.com; $$: This isn't your typical Italian eatery: Pizza crust made with bran, biodegradable dishes, soy candles, no smoking, no TV — Amici's manages both to be virtuous and to pull it off without a hint of self-righteousness. It is a bar, after all, and it's hard to say whether patrons are more interested in the vegan pizzas — which include gluten-free options — or the 64 cocktails, 35 beers and 5 premium tequilas on offer.
Andiamo (multiple locations, including Dearborn, Detroit, Livonia, Novi, Rochester, Royal Oak and St. Clair Shores; see more at andiamoitalia.com; prices vary): Unquestioned master of the Best Italian Chain category, the many iterations of Andiamo's are part of an Italian chain, all right, but they have different styles and menus. Under the tutelage of Chef Aldo Ottaviani, the kitchen staff is trained to prepare the outstanding recipes that have sustained this operation and enabled its growth for the past 20 years.
Angelina Italian Bistro 1565 Broadway, at Grand Circus Park, Detroit; 313-962-1355; $$$: Both co-owners had Sicilian grandmothers, and both toiled in other people's restaurants before making their dream come true. The experience shows, with Italian food (and some extras) at "prices that reflect the new reality" — at least when it comes to the entrées and the wines. There are only five pasta dishes and three pizzas. The sophisticated Italian menu is supplemented by some dishes that would be comfortable on any menu, such as New York strip, salmon and a pork chop. See the menu and the drinks list at angelinadetroit.com.
Assaggi Mediterranean Bistro 330 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-584-3499; assaggibistro.com; $$$: Open since May 2000, Assaggi Mediterranean Bistro has become a popular dining place, known for its attractive atmosphere and creative menu. Its Mediterranean dishes are influenced by Italian, French, Middle Eastern and Spanish cuisines, including such items as wood-fired pizza, antipasti, and sea scallops with hand-rolled pasta. Owners George Gize and Josie Knapp recommend first-timers try the lamb chops with pistachios and pine nuts. Full wine list, sangria and a full bar are available to accompany your lunch or dinner.
Bacco Ristorante 29410 Northwestern Hwy., Southfield; 248-356-6600; baccoristorante.com; $$$: Italian doesn't get any better than Bacco. The dining room is lavish and tasteful at once. It's open and spacious, while maintaining a sense of intimacy. The service is professional, provided by a knowledgeable staff that can describe every dish and its ingredients. A visit for a special occasion will not disappoint. Luciano Del Signore grew up in the restaurant business and has taken it to a new level.
Bucci Ristorante 20217 Mack Ave., Grosse Pointe Woods; 313-882-1044; ristorantebucci.com; $$: Before its remodeling four years ago, the modest surroundings at Bucci were trumped by the terrific food. It was the kind of restaurant you weren't sure you wanted to talk about — maybe you wouldn't be able to get a table on a weekend evening. Now, in addition to fine Italian cuisine, the restaurant is spacious, comfortable and relaxing. The best seats in the house are stools surrounding the open kitchen, where Chef Bujar Mamuslari makes cooking look like an art.
Cariera's 6565 Telegraph Rd., Dearborn Heights; 313-278-4060; carierasdearborn.com; $$: Charming little Italian restaurant with authentic Italian cuisine. Portions are big enough for two. In two cozy rooms, with bare wooden tables, thick cloth napkins, walls full of family photographs and wine and oil bottles, Cariera's turns out a familiar array of old-fashioned classics. The serviceable list of 24 California and Italian wines — as well as bottles from Australia, Portugal and Washington — is fairly marked up.
Compari's on the Park 350 S. Main St., Plymouth; 734-416-0100; comparisdining.com; $$: Outdoor dining here tends toward the teeming on a good summer night. Several tables stake out a generous portion of the downtown sidewalk during lunch or dinner, shaded beneath white umbrellas. Daily specials supplement the menu, which includes a bevy of homemade pasta dishes. Ownership is shared with the steak and seafood restaurant next door, Fiamma Grille.
Da Edoardo Foxtown Grille 2203 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-471-3500; $$$: With its premier location, across from Comerica Park in the same gloriously restored building as the Fox Theatre, the restaurant is a natural destination for theatergoers. Most menu offerings are simple and grilled, including two steaks, lamb chops, veal chops or seared Ahi tuna, as well as five other seafood choices and 11 pastas. The bruschetta and calamari appetizers are good for starters.
D'Amato's 222 S. Sherman Dr., Royal Oak; 248-584-7400; damatos.com; $$: Neighborhood Italian joint has eclectic and "from scratch" fare. A fresh Caesar or house salad will run you $6, and a pizza with brined olives, arugula, feta cheese and Hungarian peppers is only $8. Tender, fluffy spinach and ricotta gnocchi come surrounded with a rich sauce, and sea scallops are "pan-seared with Italian sausage, roasted eggplant, black olives" and more. There are more beef, chicken and seafood entrées as well, and 24 glasses and more than 100 bottles of wine to wash them down. Limited Sunday hours; call for info.
> Email Metro Times food staff