Theatrical Italian

Looking out from Da Edoardo Foxtown Grille, you might be in any city’s upscale downtown. You may have to head for the library to remember what this stretch of Woodward Avenue looked like in the ’70s and ’80s. Now it is a premier location, across from Comerica Park (reading “omerica Park” on the nights we were there — call the electrician), in the same gloriously restored building as the Fox Theatre. (Check out the awesome gilt ceiling in the lobby.)

The room has floor-to-ceiling windows, a stark slate-gray paint job, set off by white tablecloths and wrought iron chandeliers of cascading calla lilies.

Owned by the Barbieri family, which has been running eateries in the Detroit area since the late 1940s, the Foxtown Grille is the offspring of Da Edoardo restaurants in Grosse Pointe and Grand Blanc. A natural destination for theatergoers, diners wear everything from evening gowns to shabby running clothes.

On Saturday nights, there’s live music. The bar is a great place to watch the (silent) game and snack on one of seven interesting pizzas. All tables have a view of Woodward, and even on a wintry Wednesday night, there’s action. I saw a scruffy street guy try to engage a table of young professionals in a conversation-in-mime. All seemed good-humored.

We began with a rustica pizza ($11). The smoky flavor of Gorgonzola cheese was a sophisticated substitution for mozzarella. The thin-crust pie was dotted with chunks of prosciutto and thick slices of roasted red bell peppers.

Also good was an appetizer of calamari arabbiata ($9). The lightly battered squid was fried and served in a spicy cream sauce punctuated with red pepper flakes, and served with sweet red bell peppers and too many hot yellow peppers.

The Da Edoardo version of minestrone ($4) is a thick puree of beans and vegetables; it has a complex flavor if few identifiable features.

Dinner comes with a salad, combining infant greens with romaine lettuce. One night we were offered crumbled blue cheese on top of our salad, on another we were not. It did not appear on our salad on either night.

One night the bread came with a dip of olive oil and Parmesan cheese, another night with just butter. Both times the bread was colder than room temperature.

Most menu offerings are simple and grilled, including three steaks (with 24-ounce porterhouse topping the price list at $34), lamb chops, veal chops, or char-grilled tuna, as well as three other seafood choices and seven pastas.

Two classic veal presentations are veal Marsala ($23) and veal saltimbocca ($24). The latter was ably prepared with tender veal medallions sautéed and then layered with cheese and prosciutto in a white wine sauce.

I was less happy with gamerboni portofino ($28). For that price, you may be justified in expecting more than five shrimp, no matter how big they are. The shrimp are nestled with artichoke hearts and served in a lemony cream sauce. A vegetable and starch come with the nonpasta entrées, though I thought roasted potatoes did not work well with the creamy sauce.

The pasta Bolognese ($14), served with fettuccine, was uninteresting. The linguine with white clam sauce ($24) is described as: “served with mussels and two large shrimp.” To our surprise, it came with squid strewn across the top. Fortunately, we like squid, but we would have preferred more clams.

Italian and Californian wines are featured, with few modestly priced and the per glass price beginning at $6.50. There are liquor-laced coffees for dessert, as well as tiramisu and other calorie-rich items.

(Eats:3 stars, Experience: 4 stars)

Elissa Karg dines for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].

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