More than pizza
A shortlist of notable Italian restaurants in metro Detroit
Published: June 22, 2011
Deliziosa Bistro 22439 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-277-4990; deliziosabistro.com; $$: Deliziosa features traditional Italian cuisine with a few unconventional twists. Considering the gargantuan portions, and that mains come with soup or salad, you might pass on the appetizers. The entrées include filet mignon with Portobello, eggplant Parmesan, salmon with lemon sauce, and chicken Marengo, Marsala, and Piccata. There are no wild cards among the 13 diverse pasta dishes, unless you think risotto belongs in a category of its own.
Don Luciano's Place Trattoria 237B Dalhousie St., Amherstburg, Ontario; 519-736-2917; $$: At Luciano's, you can sit outside by the water on the patio or inside. In addition to pasta, expect homemade sausage, penne topped with tomato sauce or fettuccini pescatore. Regular seafood offerings include trout, salmon, shrimp or whitefish, all prepared as you specify. Nothing here feels mass-produced. You can sense the touch of an individual human being — Luciano — in the kitchen. A perfect summer evening out.
Due Venti 220 S. Main St., Clawson; 248-288-0220; dueventidining.com; $$$: Emphasizing local produce and preparing everything from scratch, including the pasta, the owners have put together a brief but inventive menu that changes with the seasons. And, perhaps as important, most of their entrées are in the $19-$25 range. As for wine, their Michigan reds were competitive with house pours in many other establishments. The dessert list, which again reflects a complexity of ingredients, is highlighted by a beautiful Northern Italian fruit tart. Closed Mondays.
Franco's Cafe 3614 Rochester Rd., Troy; 248-528-0153; myfrancoscafe.com; $$: This neighborhood restaurant has been quietly turning out respectable meals for a generation or so from a prosaic strip mall on Rochester Road. In a simply decorated, dimly lit room that seats 120, you can enjoy heavy red-sauced dishes with the pastas averaging around $15 and the other entrées around $19 including soup and salad. On "Wine Wednesdays," you can drink bottles of wine for half-off. Closed Mondays.
Giovanni's Ristorante 330 Oakwood Blvd., Detroit; 313-841-0122; giovannisristorante.com; $$: Handmade pastas come swimming in every sauce imaginable: Bolognese, pomodoro, Alfredo, and many more. They have the best veal Marsala around, as well as chicken and seafood dishes. The mostly Italian wine list is the perfect accompaniment — and the service is friendly and correct at the same.
Giulio's Cucina Italiana 31735 Plymouth Rd., Livonia; 734-427-9500; giuliositalian.com; $$: The pizza is great, at least the "al pesto" variety. In fact, if you're seeking a good pizza pie, the fare here is far tastier than hitting the local chain, and far cheaper. Giulio's also offers four veal dishes — the usual three (Marsala, piccata, parmigiana) plus a braised veal roast — and a couple of American-sounding steaks — New York strip and filet mignon.
Gratzi 326 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; 734-663-6387; gratzirestaurant.com; $$$: Each month the chef's specials star a different region of Italy, giving regulars plenty of reason to return. The grilled vegetables; marinated olives and mushrooms; prosciutto, cappicola and sopressata make for hearty appetizers in one of Gratzi's most popular offerings, the antipasti misti. An extensive wine list is Italian and American.
La Contessa 780 Erie St. E., Windsor, Ontario; 519-252-2167; $$: The Italian menu is generous with options, including both tried-and-trues and some less-common selections. A few stand out, including the very rich rigatoni dello chef, with lots of black olives in a cream sauce, and tortellini Parigina, cunning little ears with ham and Parmesan in a cognac cream sauce. La Contessa is a pretty place to dine, and popular — so you should be prepared to wait.
La Dolce Vita 17546 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-865-0331; ldvrestaurant.net; $$: Manager Dean Cicala describes La Dolce Vita as "a little hidden jewel that people are happy to find here." Sometimes it is simplicity itself that makes a dish. Pasta dishes range from $13 to $24. Main courses include several seafood options, too many chicken, too few veal, and just two beef. Now that warm weather has settled in, the inviting courtyard awaits behind a wrought-iron fence for al fresco dining.
Loccino Italian Grill and Bar 5600 Crooks Rd., Troy; 248-813-0700; loccino.com; $$: Loccino, which seats 275, is far more attractive than its pricey but staid predecessor, and it's also far more accessible as most entrées come in at under $20. Despite its relative elegance, the owners call it "family casual." The chicken and veal preparations appear in comparable guises with veal about $3 more than chicken. Loccino's chicken piccata with capers and mushrooms in a delicate lemon-wine sauce merits the local award it has won.
Luciano's 39091 Garfield Rd., Clinton Twp; 586-263-6540; lucianosfinestitaliancuisinerestaurant.com; $$: Located in the prosaic Gar-Pointe strip mall, Luciano's, which seats 200, is opulently decorated with elaborately carved pillars and arches, an artificial palm tree, and white-clothed tables and elevated booths in the main room and two private curtained booths in the bar. These surroundings, the Italian pop music that blares through the speakers, the liveried servers, and a festive air suggest that diners are attending a wedding. The char-broiled seafood platter ($24.95) which can satisfy four or more includes an especially lively marinated octopus salad with tomatoes, scallions, onions and red peppers.
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