Ciao down

Andiamo Italia West 6676 Telegraph, Bloomfield, 248-865-9300, $$: with locations in Warren, Grosse Pointe Woods, St. Clair Shores, Rochester, Royal Oak, Sterling Heights, Dearborn, Detroit and Novi; see The sunflower yellow and purple color scheme and huge tilted mirrors that allow patrons to glimpse those sitting behind them have given the space a slickly contemporary look. The food is in contrast: It’s the solid Italian fare of old master Aldo Ottaviani interpreted by a crew of young chefs in the open kitchen.

Buca di Beppo 12575 Hall Rd., Utica, 586-803-WINE, $$: Thousands of people love this place, a fast-growing chain that attempts to re-create the Southern Italian immigrant experience of the 1950s. The surprising thing is that the food is really good — not to mention cheap. The tiramisu is dense and superior, and the wine list has Chianti in a basket.

Cafe Nini Da Edoardo 98 Kercheval, Grosse Pointe Farms, 313-308-3120, $: The Barbieri family is attempting to re-create an Italian café in Grosse Pointe with Café Nini, the latest restaurant to bear the name Da Edoardo. They have Mokarabia coffee, fresh mozzarella, prosciutto di Parma and mortadella with pistachios — all that’s lacking is a glass of wine to sip with the panini.

Cariera’s 6565 Telegraph Rd., Dearborn Heights, 313-278-4060, $$: Charming little Italian restaurant with authentic Italian cuisine. Portions are big enough for two. In two cozy rooms, with bare wooden tables and thick cloth napkins and walls full of family photographs and wine and oil bottles, Cariera’s turns out a familiar array of old-fashioned classics.

Europa Bistro 543 N. Main St., Rochester, 248-650-1390, $$: “In Europe,” says chef Pascal Paviani, “you don’t have to go into the big-name restaurant to have good food. Everywhere in Europe there’s good food in small, family-run restaurants.” If that is what chef Paviani was aiming for, Europa Bistro is a bull’s-eye: more Italian than French, very wonderful and very reasonably priced. Main courses include classic Italian pastas like spaghetti Bolognese and fettuccine Alfredo with seafood and six veal entrées, including the ever-popular veal Marsala and veal piccata.

Giorgio’s Restaurant 25920 Greenfield Rd., Oak Park, 248-968-4060, $$: At Giorgio’s you can get a grilled cheese sandwich or steak Diane. You can also order from the separate pasta menu. It looks like a retro lunch counter, but choose from the “Counterside Gourmet” section of the menu, and you might well be in a little Italian trattoria.

Giulio’s Cucina Italiana 31735 Plymouth Rd., Livonia, 734-427-9500, $$: The pizza is great, at least the “al pesto” variety. In fact, if you’re seeking a good pizza pie, the fare here is much tastier than hitting the local chain, and far cheaper. Giulio’s also offers four veal dishes — the usual three (Marsala, piccata, saltimbocca) plus a braised veal roast.

La Contessa 780 Erie St. East, Windsor, 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.

Larco’s Italian Chophouse 645 Big Beaver, Troy, 248-680-0066, $$: One of the triumvirate of the area’s classic, old-line Italian-American restaurants (Mario’s, Lelli’s, Larco’s) with roots that go back half a century to Detroit’s Six Mile Road. Pastas and steaks in generous portions are equally emphasized in an upbeat setting featuring black-and-white photographs of Italian gardens.

Little Italy Ristorante 227 Hutton Rd., Northville, 248-348-0575, $$, The food at Little Italy is splendid – standouts include calamari fritti and the eggplant appetizer, delicious sauces, and an exquisite raspberry sorbet-and-chocolate dessert called “Amore.” These thoughtfully prepared dishes are expertly served in a narrow, old, frame house, now expanded to include a bar.

Luigi’s 104 Macomb St., Mount Clemens, 586-468-7200, $$: Luigi’s picks tradition over trendy any day: no experiments, only the tried-and-true. Pasta, fish, chicken, veal, lamb, beef — nary a disappointment among them. Angel hair pasta primavera is a winner, and pizza is elevated to gourmet status, such as the five-cheese gooey dream.

Maria’s Front Room 215 W. 9 Mile Rd., Ferndale, 248-542-7379, $$, OK, so you won’t find candles flickering in wicker-sheathed Chianti bottles anymore (the Ferndale fire marshal deemed then a fire hazard), Maria’s still manages to be romantic even in a storefront. Founded back in the 1970s on Grand River Avenue in Detroit, founder and proprietor Joan Orlando passed away several years ago, leaving son Carl Orlando in charge. But the formula remains largely the same: They serve classic cheese-laden, calories-be-damned Italian, with legendary garlic bread and such dishes as breaded veal in lemon butter sauce with sautéed shrimp; boneless breast of chicken, eggplant and prosciutto in marinara sauce, notable pizza and a list of three house-made wines.

Mario’s Restaurant 4222 Second Ave., Detroit, 313-832-1616, $$$, It’s been 60 years since Mario Lelli opened this inviting Italian spot. Just down the street from the Hilberry Theatre, generations of theatergoers have enjoyed multicourse meals here. This is exactly the kind of place people think of when they think Italian restaurant. All the favorites from veal Tosca and spaghetti Bolognese to shrimp scampi and chicken cacciatore are served by a competent waitstaff in a series of rooms. Get everything from the humble chicken mariata soup ($4.50) to the mammoth chateaubriand for two ($65).

Mezzaluna 7750 E. Metro Parkway, Sterling Heights, 586-268-7100, $$, Offering classic Italian fare in elegant surroundings, Mezzaluna’s mains on the menu include fresh pastas such as baci pappalina and several gnocchis that do resemble a traditional tutto mare. Most of the seafood is flown in from Boston’s fabled Foley’s, and milk-fed veal is another specialty.

Moro’s Dining 6535 Allen Rd., Allen Park, 313-382-7152, $$$, Moro’s is somewhat of a time-warp — including the fact that they offer old-fashioned (tuxedoed) professional service.  Most entrées cost around $18 and include everything from soup to nuts. Owner Thomas Moro butchers his own veal, the specialty of the house included in 10 different dishes.

Ristorante Cafe Cortina 30715 W. 10 Mile, Farmington Hills, 248-474-3033, $$$: Perhaps because of its somewhat off-the-beaten-track location, or maybe because the price structure has been higher than most other comparable restaurants, this place has never gotten much notice beyond its hardcore fans. The fresh pastas and veals, however, are the real thing and the setting — which aims for elegance — does help. If you like the sauces, they’re bottled for sale, and they’ve added cherry wood to the indoor décor and an outdoor Tuscan patio to perhaps enjoy on a warm fall day.

Via Nove 344 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale, 248-336-9936, $$: Three soups, eight pasta choices, and dinner comes with crusty focaccia, brushed with butter and dotted with herbs. Veal, shrimp, salmon, sole, chicken and filet mignon make up most of the entrées, and they’re prepared in ways that go beyond the ordinary. Open daily except Monday. Full bar upstairs with some music nights, a sumptuously modern atmosphere, and a pleasing selection of Italian and California wines.

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Metro Times Staff

Since 1980, Metro Times has been Detroit’s premier alternative source for news, arts, culture, music, film, food, fashion and more from a liberal point of view.
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