Salvatore Scallopini has been a popular destination around town since the first one opened in Madison Heights in 1982. The Birmingham outpost and those in Eastpointe and Grosse Pointe Woods found their constituency, too. But Lathrup Village? That was a different story. For some reason, the folksy pasta and pizza spin didn't connect there.
Back to the drawing board. The handsome, free-standing building that until last April housed Salvatore Scallopini is now Village Bar & Grille, with a new mainstream menu and a quick makeover by its original designers, Ron & Roman, both inside and out. And it's still run by Larry Bongiovanni and his sister Serena, the Scallopini founders.
The new direction seems to be a much better fit for the neighborhood, where restaurants are scarce and the more inclusive approach of a contemporary American menu is working well.
The setting of café-curtained booths and tables in a woodsy color scheme of rust and brown enlivened with architectural details and an eclectic collection of bric-a-brac displayed on shelves just below ceiling level is attractive and unpretentious. The space seats about 50, including the tiny corner bar's six seats and two booths, one of which is so tiny it barely accommodates two. (Oddly enough, it happens to be sought after seating.)
The dishes that emerge from the open kitchen on one wall are mainstream, and range from sandwiches and burgers at both lunch and dinner to fish and chips, baby back ribs, and a number of main dish salads typified by grilled chicken with apples, frisee and cashews in vinaigrette, and the classic Caesar with add-ons of shrimp, salmon, chicken or tenderloin. Nice touches include warm house-made potato chips, as well as the mix of crisp sweet potato and regular fries, and a multiethnic approach that allows such crowd-pleasing dishes as nachos, pulled pork, hot dogs and even Brussels sprouts to co-exist on the menu.
An especially nice combination — and it is on both lunch and dinner menus — is the roasted tomato basil soup and grilled cheese sandwich combination. The cheeses include goat, Munster and Gruyere on an excellent bread that manages to be multigrain without being heavy. (That particular dish harks to the other Bongiovanni restaurant, Luxe Bar & Grill.) There's usually a pasta on the list of daily specials — it might be penne with garlic, olive oil, kale and chicken — as well as a differing salmon and chicken preparation, typified by grilled salmon with a balsamic glaze and arugula potatoes and barbecued chicken.
All of the above may make it seem that this is one of those overly lengthy menus, but it is really quite pared down while still giving the Lathrup Villagers enough choices.
Salvatore Scallopini may not have captured the neighborhood's imagination, but its makeover just might have the right combination of attractions to get the job done with its friendly service, cozy ambiance and solid fare.
Village Bar & Grille
27411 Southfield, Lathrup Village
Call: (248) 327-7000
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Saturday,
noon-9 p.m. Sunday (Bar later.)
Prices: Appetizers $3-$13, sandwiches and burgers $9-$11, salads $8-$16, lunch entrees $6.50-$12, dinner entrees $14-$22, desserts $2-$5
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar
Noise level: Low
Parking: Attached lot
Wheelchair access: No barriers