What a fantastic experience dining at Oak & Reel was! From the food to the service to the ambiance, this Detroit-based Italian restaurant is serving up top-tier excellence.
I’d become familiar with Oak & Reel from Hour Detroit‘s coverage of it. The magazine crowned Oak & Reel 2022 Restaurant of the Year. Detroiters must’ve took notice, because the restaurant was packed when my friend and I arrived at 7:30 on a Monday night. Fortunately, we were able to snag two open seats at the bar.
Oak & Reel’s interior is a pretty, airy space, a pleasing mixture of industrial and contemporary elements. I loved the profusion of potted plants and striking hexagon tiles that covered one section of ceiling.
Service at the restaurant was excellent. The bartender who waited on us was a delight, friendly and attentive. He praised my drink choice, the Serpenti, an utterly delicious mixture of tequila reposado, passionfruit, lime, and calabrian chile. I love a spicy cocktail!
From the octopus Bolognese to the butter-poached halibut to the Raw portion featuring oysters, tuna, and other ocean delicacies, seafood is featured heavily on Oak & Reel’s menu. But there are plenty of options for non-seafood-lovers, too (take it from me, who is one of them!). One is the Caramelle, a pasta dish featuring ribbon-like strips of ravioli filled with short rib meat and topped with blistered yellow and red grape tomatoes, bread crumbs, and marjoram. This was my order, and it was exceptional! The house-made pasta was perfectly tender, and I savored the rich filling, crunchy bread crumbs, and vibrance of the blistered tomatoes and herbs.
After a meal that perfect, I didn’t need dessert – but I strongly considered it. How could I not, when Oak & Reel was offering tempting choices such as the Triple Chocolate Tarte with orange and cacao nibs and the Bomboloni, donuts with rosemary sugar and lemon anglaise?
Just like those desserts, the experience of dining at Oak & Reel was an extra-special treat – one that I definitely yearn to savor again!
As if I needed another reason to love Corktown, here comes Momento Gelato & Coffee, really making me swoon!
The coffee house plus gelato joint resides on Trumbull Street, just a stone’s throw from 100 Places in the D favorite Ottava Via. And it’s not to be missed; its gelato is exceptional.
You’d think a frigid January’s morn wouldn’t lend itself well to gelato eating. But I’m here to attest that any day of the year is the perfect one to consume Momento’s gelato. I got a scoop each of its butter pecan and pistachio flavors, and WOW! They were so rich and creamy and flat-out wonderful. Gelato flavors featured throughout the year, according to Momento’s website, include Michigan Fresh Peach (a seasonal offering), Salted Caramel, and Italian Hazelnut Honey (a WOW-worthy flavor if there ever was one!). The Michigan-based business also makes several fruit sorbets.
And then there’s the caffeinated aspect of the menu. Momento offers espresso-, coffee-, and tea-based beverages (which include decaffeinated options). And you know there’s an affogato (espresso and vanilla gelato)! I sampled this portion of the menu via Momento’s cappuccino, which was the ideal rich-and-tasty treat to take with me on a brief stroll about Corktown, being as it was warming (I ate the not-so-warming gelato later in the car).
If you’re looking to make an ice cream, coffee, and meal run all in one, Momento’s got you! Its menu includes soup, pastries, a caprese salad, and several types of paninis. A lunch special combines all the goodies: a drip coffee, cup of soup, panini, and a small gelato. Now my heart is REALLY going pitter-patter for Momento Gelato & Coffee!
Dining at D’Marcos Italian Restaurant and Wine Bar was an absolute delight!
The Rochester-based restaurant offers a sleek, richly-furnished kind of cozy perfectly conducive to hunkering down on a cold December night. Its exterior being covered in white twinkle lights (as part of downtown Rochester’s annual holiday light show) only served to enhance the already magical ambiance.
Being out on a Friday night, wearing fancy shoes, sipping a glass of pinot noir at a corner table in a bustling restaurant . . . that in itself was magic! What a treat that was, a privilege – one that I don’t take for granted anymore since this age of COVID.
What a privilege it was to scan D’Marcos’ menu, its array of antipasti and pizzas and house-made pastas, meat-centric entrées and seafood dishes, and to choose the Veal Picatta, a bowl of piping-hot minestrone, and a side of sauce-laden noodles.
Is there anything better than pasta done right? I think not! That side plate of pasta was so good. I relished the perfectly al dente noodles covered in rich meat sauce.
And the Veal Picatta! Its tender slices of beef and artichoke hearts sautéed in lemon, butter, and white wine were so very excellent. I could drink a quart of that lemon-butter sauce all on its own, I think!
Wine, pasta, and picatta – what a trifecta! The night could have very well ended right there at D’Marcos, but I opted to keep a good thing going by ordering dessert. Enter one of the best slices of chocolate cake I’ve ever eaten in my life! With its to-die-for layers of ganache and overall chocolatey richness, this torte was utterly delicious. It was a fitting end to a special, satisfying meal.
The food wasn’t the only thing done right at D’Marcos. The service was excellent. Our server was kind, attentive – the kind of server who seemingly aims to curate an experience, rather than simply going through the motions. The manager checked on us several times, too during the course of that busy night.
A restaurant that values delicious food, dazzling ambiance, and distinctive service – how could I not love a restaurant like that? How could I not love D’Marcos?
Tivoli’s Pizzeria makes one EXCEPTIONAL pizza pie! I found that out on a Tuesday night in late October, when I met a friend at the Utica-based pizzeria.
Tivoli’s is bringing the ambiance, too. I’d admittedly expected a no-frills interior from this restaurant that’s been around since the mid-’70s. Instead, I walked into a cozy brick-walled dining area decorated with vintage movie posters, black-and-white photos, and glitzy chandeliers. Our table was near the wood-fired pizza oven, a driving force behind Tivoli’s delicious pies.
Pizza is of course the focus of Tivoli’s menu, but it showcases much more than that. There are appetizers such as Bruschetta Caprese and focaccia bread stuffed with prosciutto, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, olive oil, and oregano. There are salads, including the classic Antipasto, and sandwiches such as the Meatball Parmigiano and Super Club. Dessert means cannolis and the glorious-sounding Nutella Pizza topped with chocolate-hazelnut spread, powdered sugar, and strawberries or bananas. Beer, wine, Italian sodas, and espresso drinks are also available.
From the non-pizza section of that menu, I chose the House Salad (sans mushrooms). It was loaded with fresh and flavorful ingredients: mixed greens tossed with tomato, red onion, roasted red pepper, green olives, and a house-made Italian vinaigrette.
Pondering the pizza offerings was a more laborious task. Tivoli’s offers many enticing options, from the iconic Margherita to the Pig & Pineapple (featuring both bacon and ham for the pig component) to the Sfiziosa topped with arugula, ham, sliced tomatoes, mozzarella, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Pizzas are available as wood-fired rounds (12-inch size only); Chicago-style; squares; and as what Tivoli’s characterizes as the New York Round.
Ultimately, it was the Lorenzo Special wood-fired pie that won out for my friend and me. Slathered with pesto, topped with grape tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and Parmigiano-Reggiano, it was an absolute DREAM! Irresistibly rich and brimming with flavor, it was the kind of pizza pie I could sit and eat slice after slice of – until the entire thing was gone.
I reined myself in that night at Tivoli’s, though. There were leftover slices of that Lorenzo Special, which my friend graciously offered to me. Lucky me: I was able to enjoy Tivoli’s for another day!
Is there anything better than a summer’s day in Detroit? I think not – especially when it’s spent on PizzaPlex’s patio, enjoying one of its INCREDIBLE pies!
The pizzeria is located in Southwest Detroit, in delightful proximity to Clark Park, El Club, and Mexicantown Bakery. Besides that of being located in one of my favorite Detroit neighborhoods, it holds an honorable distinction: it’s a certified maker of authentic Neapolitan pizza. This accreditation is awarded by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, an organization dedicated to preserving the method of pizza-making that originated in Naples, Italy.
It’s a big deal to be certified by the AVPN, which has specific rules around what constitutes a true Neapolitan pie; see its regulations around everything from cooking temperature to dough thickness to how peeled tomatoes are crushed (by hand). There are fewer than 900 AVPN-certified pizzerias in the world, according to Pizza Plex’s most recent newsletter – and only two in Michigan.
Such a certification means nothing if the taste isn’t there. But I’m here to tell you that the taste is wholly present at PizzaPlex!
I was in the mood for an outdoor lunch on the day of my visit. So I sat at a table in PizzaPlex’s backyard seating area: a delightful little hideaway. There I listened to the breeze rustle branches while admiring a mural featuring monarch butterflies and vibrant swirls of color.
I decided to forego a drink but admired PizzaPlex’s collection of beers, craft cocktails, digestifs, and Italian wines. I started instead with its side salad, a super-fresh mix of greens and cherry tomatoes drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and deliciously pungent Parmigiano.
Then came my pie: a Margherita. PizzaPlex’s rendition of the classic pie was phenomenal. Its fresh basil leaves, tomato sauce, drizzles of olive oil, and ample chunks of mozzarella had the pizza bursting with flavor. But the real showstopper was the crust.
I’m not typically a pizza-crust person. I eat it, but it’s not why I’m there. When it comes to PizzaPlex’s pie, though, I’m most decidedly a crust person! It has to be the best I’ve ever eaten.
This Margherita’s dough was fire-kissed on the outside, yet so sumptuously doughy and chewy. It’s hard to put into words how something so seemingly simple could taste so wonderful; it begs to be experienced. The Neapolitan spirit was in full force in this pizza dough!
Another element of PizzaPlex where that Neapolitan spirit is fully alive is in its pay-it-forward program – sospeso, as it’s called in Naples. It allows patrons to pre-purchase meals for future guests. What a win-win it is to visit PizzaPlex when you can allow both yourself and a fellow human to enjoy its delicious pies!
Dinner at SheWolf – what a special experience! It was a dream come true to finally visit the Detroit-based Italian restaurant – and a magical one, at that.
I dined at SheWolf on a Friday night in early August. My mom, stepdad, and I had a reservation for right when it opened, 5 p.m. We’d spent the previous hour priming ourselves for the experience in the backyard of The Old Miami; we were ready to eat! And SheWolf was ready to serve us.
I was struck by SheWolf’s gorgeous dining room: its sage-green walls, caramelly leather, dark-stained wood floors, and profusion of fresh flowers.
Another striking detail was how many employees were working that night. There was a full floor of them – I’m talking a pre-COVID-level, busy-weekend-night number of staff members. This was both surprising and incredibly heartening to me. I interpreted it to mean 1) SheWolf is a place where people love to work and 2) they are doing well enough during these COVID times to employ a full staff.
With its phenomenal food and impeccable service, how could SheWolf not be doing well? At least, I hope it is. We need restaurants this wonderful to thrive!
Speaking of the impeccable service at SheWolf: here’s an example. I happened to drop my napkin twice that night. Both times I did, staff members swooped in with a fresh one. Employees consistently appeared eager to step in and deliver food, decrumb our table, check on us . . .. They did so with friendly, professional attitudes, seemingly happy to be there and serving us. As someone who served in restaurants for years, I really appreciated being in the midst of this high-vibing staff who worked seamlessly together as a team. I could see myself on a crew like that . . .. But I was a patron that night at SheWolf . . . so I’ll put my serving nostalgia aside!
The server we had that night was great and adeptly guided us through SheWolf’s menu. We all ordered her recommended cocktail, Aperol These Years, a spritz incorporating strawberry, balsamic, and basil-infused Aperol. It came garnished with a marigold and went down really easy.
We shared two appetizers, again recommended by our server: the Carpaccio and the Sformato di Zucchine.
The Carpaccio was a revelation for me! I’d previously been put off by carpaccio’s layers of paper-thin, raw beef. But SheWolf’s carpaccio was so tender and flavorful, an utter delight to eat. It was accented by capers, toasted hazelnut pieces, and an ample layer of shredded Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
The Sformato di Zucchine also blew my taste buds wide open. I didn’t know what to expect of this dish described as a “savory zucchini custard.” But wow, was it luxuriously full of flavor!
We continued our journey through SheWolf’s menu. From the carefully curated pasta, meat, and seafood dishes, I chose the Paccheri All’Arrabbiata. The dish of house-made pasta topped with a spicy lamb neck ragu, whipped ricotta, plum tomatoes, and banana peppers was SO, SO, SO, SO GOOD. The tender lamb and flavor-rich sauce! That creamy ricotta! There was a lot to exclaim over – including the house-made pasta, which was wonderfully fresh and al dente-chewy.
SheWolf’s pasta production, by the way, includes milling its own flour. Talk about dedication! There’s a glass-walled area on the way to the restrooms where the pasta is made by hand.
While the drink, appetizers, and main course I enjoyed at SheWolf were satisfying, I couldn’t stop there. Dessert was the icing on the cake of this exquisite meal.
So I savored SheWolf’s Torta di Cioccolato, a slice of flourless chocolate cake accompanied by chantilly cream, crème anglaise, and bits of honeycomb. It was a rich, chocolatey treat. But the dessert my mother ordered, the Zeppole, REALLY blew me away. These were piping-hot, freshly fried ricotta fritters, perfectly crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. Dusted with cinnamon sugar and served with a drizzle of chocolate-hazelnut spread, they were exceptional.
Like those Zeppole, the entire experience of dining at SheWolf was exceptional. This is one of those meals that I find myself visiting again and again in my memory. I feel privileged to have had this special experience at this special restaurant!
March 30, 2021 was momentous for me. Not only was it the day I visited Yell Sweets bakery, it was also the day I visited 900 Degrees Pizzeria Bistro . . . AND dined inside a restaurant for the FIRST TIME IN OVER A YEAR!!!
For someone who adores restaurants – especially locally-owned ones (hence, this blog), this milestone in the topsy-turvy pandemic voyage was a BIG deal. Being fully vaccinated gave me the confidence to eat inside restaurants again, and I was READY.
Driving to the restaurant on that fateful day, my stomach was aflutter with nerves as if I were going on a first date! And in a way, I was: it was my first date back with the indoor-dining experience.
Sitting down at a table inside 900 Degrees and taking off my mask was the oddest sensation. It all felt so wrong: to be sitting there with the air kissing my face, conversing with the masked server while I was sans face covering. I’ll never forget that initial mix of disconcertment and excitement.
It felt very full-circle to have my first meal back be with the same person I’d last dined indoors with: my friend Jessica (our visit to Guiseppe’s in Chesterfield was two days after the first recorded COVID-19 case in Michigan and four days before my personal lockdown began).
Once Jessica arrived at 900 Degrees and I started sipping my drink, I relaxed into the experience. By the end of our dinner, it felt totally normal to be doing this once-normal thing that had been made foreign by very unnormal circumstances.
This meal at 900 Degrees was everything I’d hoped it would be! It started off with a shared Caprese, which was excellent with its fresh mozzarella and flavorful tomatoes and basil. Then I had the very fresh, very tasty house salad. My entree was the Pappardelle al Ragù di Agnello, a delicious melding of thick egg noodles and tomato sauce rich with ground lamb and flavor. My meal finished with a delectably creamy tiramisu.
Seeing lamb ragu on 900 Degrees’ menu made my entree choice an easy one – it’s one of my go-to dishes. But as I review the menu, I’m reminded of how many enticing choices the Italian bistro has. Its specialty is pizzas cooked in its wood-fired oven, and the menu reflects that: there are 20 different types of pizza on the current menu. Choices range from Pesto to Calzone to Fig & Pig (a tantalizing mix of mozzarella, burrata, prosciutto, fig jam, and crushed walnuts). The menu also boasts hefty pasta and meat-centric sections, featuring dishes such as Lasagna al Forno, Lobster Ravioli, Branzino alla Griglia (grilled sea bass), and Vitello Saltimbocca (veal layered with prosciutto, sage, and white wine sauce).
As I drove home from dinner that night, I couldn’t stop thinking about how special that meal at 900 Degrees Pizzeria Bistro felt. I told myself, “I never want to forget this feeling!” And I haven’t. That first night back inside restaurants reminded me that having the ability to dine out is truly a privilege. I don’t want to take that privilege – or the fact that I’m still here – for granted.
Guiseppe’s Restaurant was the last establishment I dined at before the coronavirus blew up here in Metro-Detroit. I’m so grateful to have had the experience of eating dinner there with a friend before this necessary period of social isolation set in.
For those of you who have lost loved ones to this virus, who are battling the virus yourselves, or whose lives have been affected by it in other terrible ways, I am sorry, and I am sending love to you. I know this little post on an Italian restaurant in Chesterfield, MI isn’t the kind of thing that can ease your pain in any real way, but I hope it provides a momentary diversion for those of you who are seeking it.
Guiseppe’s is located in a strip mall. Its interior is unpretentious and homey – and it serves up a mean Eggplant Parmesan.
The restaurant was offering a 2-for-$20 special during my visit, meaning you could purchase two featured meals – with soup or salad included – for only $10 bucks apiece. The Eggplant Parmesan I opted for was part of that special. It was delicious with its melt-in-your-mouth breaded and fried eggplant slathered in rich tomato sauce and cheese and served with a side of al dente penne pasta.
That 2-for-$20 menu is available Sundays through Thursdays and includes a variety of pasta dishes (including Manicotti, Homemade Lasagna, and Spaghetti Carbonara), plus chicken- and fish-centric meals such as Chicken Marsala and Beer Battered Fish and Chips.
Guiseppe’s regular dinner menu features a more in-depth list of pasta dishes, plus appetizers, salads, pizzas, and meat-focused entrées such as Steak Siciliano, Veal Scaloppini, and Shrimp Casalinga. The restaurant has a full bar; I enjoyed a tasty glass of pinot noir while there.
As of the writing of this post, Guiseppe’s was still open, accepting carryout orders only. So you can still experience its delectable Italian cuisine at this time if you’re local and looking to take a break from cooking.
My mouth still waters when I think about the meatball sub I ordered at Rocco’s Italian Deli over a month ago. That Want Nonna to Make You a Meatball? sub was exquisite with its tender beef meatballs nestled in an irresistibly chewy bun and slathered in flavorful marinara sauce, mozzarella, and Parmesan!
Rocco’s is more than a sandwich shop. The establishment based in the Cass Corridor neighborhood of Detroit is also a grocer offering shelves of Italian dry-goods staples such as pasta, canned tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, and wine, plus a full deli counter proffering olives and slice-to-order cheeses and cured meats. It’s also a bar, serving beer, wine, and cocktails – AND a coffee house, serving coffee and espresso drinks. All that wrapped into one – with killer sandwiches, to boot!
I’m apparently not the only one who finds Rocco’s so appealing: it was bustling with clientele when I entered it on the afternoon of my visit. The lunch crowd was in full swing! I’d hoped to stay and enjoy my sandwich at one of its tables or counter seats, but based off of the scarcity in seating at that time, I opted for carryout instead.
Scanning Rocco’s prepared-foods menu of entrée salads and sandwiches, I encountered numerous delectable-sounding options before making Want Nonna to Make You a Meatball? my choice. Take, for instance, the Mozz and Mozz of Fun sandwich boasting fresh mozzarella, roasted tomato, basil pesto, and balsamic drizzle and the Little Puzzo Loves His Pork with its roasted pork, sautéed broccoli rabe, and sharp provolone. Yum and YUM!
I ordered at the counter, and despite the busyness, waited no more than 10 minutes for my order; Rocco’s staff was operating as a well-oiled, sandwich-building, salad-slinging machine!
Once home, I dug into my Want Nonna to Make You a Meatball? sub and found that my choice was justified. It was DELICIOUS! I ate it with such relish that I didn’t pause to take a photo of it. Bonus points go to Rocco’s for putting the marinara sauce on the side to ensure the optimal sponginess of the sandwich bread once I bit into it (hooray for not-soggy sandwiches!).
My consensus around Rocco’s Italian Deli is obvious to me: it’s DEFINITELY revisit-worthy. My intention for Visit Number Two: to enjoy one of its tasty sandwiches in-house, accompanied by a glass of red wine or a cappuccino (or both!).
Detroit jaunts warm my heart, even on the coldest of days. And a jaunt to Corktown’s Cork and Gabel on a Friday night in mid-January was no exception to this rule.
On ambiance alone, I was captivated with this place from the get-go. Opening Cork and Gabel’s big metal door (which is made from a recycled oil tank, BTW; the whole of the tank makes up a lobby area) and stepping over the threshold, I was greeted by a vibrant display of super-cool graffiti art – and THAT was just in the lobby!
The interior of Cork and Gabel is warm and inviting, a mash-up of industrial-chic and antique vibes with its minimalist light fixtures, brick walls, distressed-wood bar front, and repurposed elements such as the aforementioned oil tank.
According to a FAQ sheet put on the tables at Cork and Gabel, several of the elements that comprise the restaurant are recycled ones getting a new lease on life (which I LOVE). There’s a bell hanging above the bar from around the turn of the 20th century that used to belong to a Detroit business called Fulton Engine and Iron Works that is rung any time a round of at least twelve drinks is bought at the bar. We got to hear it rung while we were there! There’s fencing from Mt. Elliott Cemetery, and brick pavers that used to line the streets of Detroit now line the Cork and Gabel patio. There are former gas carriage lights from the mid-1800s that have been converted to electric lights. History reinvigorated!
The creativity and ingenuity doesn’t end with Cork and Gabel’s ambiance. The restaurant practices a type of repurposing with its food menu, too, melding Irish, Italian, and German cooking to form its cuisine, which is heavy on comfort fare (making it especially ideal at this time of year). Its dinner menu offers hearty salads, appetizers, and meat-centric dishes such as the Bangers and Mash, Schnitzel BLT, and Prosciutto Tortellini. A brunch menu is also offered on Saturday and Sundays and includes a most gargantuan Bloody Mary (the Ultimate Bloody Mary), a quart-sized portion loaded with foodstuffs (including meat, cheese, and a full-blown breakfast sandwich) that makes me wish I liked Bloody Marys (I love the whimsy of these loaded ones!).
But it’s not all meat-and-dairy-laden goodness at Cork and Gabel: vegetarian and vegan options such as the Mushroom Risotto (made with vegetable stock) and Meatless Sausage Pasta are available, too. It’s always good to be able to support veg friends!
After perusing Cork and Gabel’s craft cocktail menu and ordering a drink from our awesome server (the fantastic The Southwest, which was right up my alley with its ancho-jalapeño-infused tequila, lime juice, and honey-habanero simple syrup), I studied that food menu and opted for the dish that I’d kept coming back to: the C&G Burger. Based off of the ingredients listed on the menu – lettuce, tomato, bacon, Guinness-caramelized onions, and TWO kinds of cheese: a black pepper-infused mozzarella and what was described as a “crispy Dubliner cheese” – I suspected this was going to be one hefty burger.
I wasn’t mistaken in that assumption. The C&G Burger was indeed a hulking display of comfort-food decadence, comprised as it was of a big beef patty on a toasted brioche bun and loaded with that glut of toppings, accompanied by a slew of French fries.
The meal did not disappoint: it was rich, satisfying tastiness! My favorite part of the C&G Burger was that crispy Dubliner cheese, which turned out to be wedges of cheese that were breaded and deep-fried into extreme YUM-ness.
From ambiance to service, from food to drink, the whole of my visit to Cork and Gabel was a super satisfying one – one that warmed my heart on that chilly winter’s night, for sure.