November 10, 2011 at 1:00 am

Torino Espresso Bar offers a perfect blend

Torino is part coffeehouse, part cocktail lounge and part restaurant with a menu of many sharable dishes. (Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News)

Along the three-block stretch of Nine Mile west of Woodward Avenue, you'll find a thriving restaurant row.

Not so much when you traveled eastward.

That changed dramatically two months ago when Torino Espresso Bar opened its doors on the ground floor of the new loft building at 201 E. Nine Mile.

It's much more than a place to grab a quick latte. Torino is an interesting hybrid — part coffeehouse, part cocktail lounge (see story on pages 12-13), part restaurant with a menu of mostly sharable dishes from bruschetta and olive tapenade to roasted red pepper hummus, as well as an array of panini (grilled sandwiches) on Avalon bakery bread.

Putting together these disparate elements could have resulted in an uneasy alliance. Happily, the three partners behind Torino have been able to achieve a comfortable balance between coffee, cocktails and cuisine.

From the poured concrete bar and tabletops and the slick contemporary furnishings, including low couches as well as conventional tables and bar seating, and artworks typified by a striking red, black and white poster by Ralph Steadman, to the mixed bag of background music, the result is stylish and inviting.

And the menu is exactly the right length, a simple list of prettily garnished appetizers, salads, panini and platters of thinly sliced prosciutto di Parma, cappicola, speck, mortadella and salami accented by seasonal fruits and vegetables.

The summer menu that started things off for proprietors Noah Dorfman, Jim Culliton and Sam Abdallah has just segued into a list more appropriate to the season.

For instance, the meticulous summer salad that included baby spinach, thinly sliced Granny Smith apples, a toss of golden raisins and walnuts and shredded manchego cheese in a strawberry/raspberry infused vinaigrette (and I hope it returns in the spring) has been replaced for fall and winter by arugula and roasted beets with herbed chevre cheese in shallot sherry vinaigrette. Bruschetta is topped with wild mushrooms, chevre, scallions and herbed oil instead of the summery tomato and basil.

Chili and a daily-changing soup have been added, and the chicken pesto panini has been replaced by turkey with cranberry slaw and Swiss cheese. Chef James Henry has started pickling root vegetables as one of the garnishes.

The three proprietors each bring a different perspective to the enterprise. Dorfman has business background, Culliton is the coffee man, and Abdallah is an experienced bartender. No wonder they've been able to put Torino together in seamless fashion.

Torino Espresso Bar

201 E. Nine Mile, Ferndale

Call: (248) 247-1370


Rating: 3 stars

Hours: 6 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Wed., 6 a.m.-2 a.m. Thurs.-Sat., 8 a.m.-midnight Sun.

Prices: Appetizers $8-$12; sandwiches $8-$10; salads $9-$13; vegetable, meat and cheese platters, $17-$42; desserts $7-$7.50. Coffee, tea and chocolate drinks $1.75-$3.25

Credit cards: All major

Liquor: Full bar

Parking: Nearby municipal parking lots or street

Wheelchair access: No barriers

(313) 222-1475