You may slather your pizza with pepperoni, green peppers, Alfredo sauce or any of the other 20 or so toppings offered at this friendly spot that owes its existence to the Detroit-style square pizza created by the late Gus Guerra, but you probably ought to try it in its pristine original state, just tomato sauce and cheese.
That's the way Guerra made it the first time in 1946, using wife Anna's family recipes and some pans picked up at the local hardware store, and it's still the way purists prefer it.
Guerra's daughter Marie and son Jack are keeping his spirit alive at the Eastpointe spot their dad opened in 1953, after selling his original location on Conant and Six Mile in Detroit, then known as Buddy's Rendezvous, along with his recipes.
Eastpointe was East Detroit in those days, and the neighborhood bar Guerra bought after leaving Buddy's has expanded over the years, even surviving a fire in 1993 that kept the place closed for nearly a year.
Cloverleaf, it almost goes without saying, is not a fancy restaurant. It's the kind of place where the Rotary Club meets for lunch on Tuesdays, where families know they'll feel comfortable even if their children aren't on their best behavior, where the plates are plastic and the napkins paper. That down-to-earth unpretentiousness is part of its charm.
Pizza is not the only dish, but to some it might as well be. Offered in just two sizes, small and large, it has faintly charred edges with a satisfying crunchiness, and a softer, breadlike texture at the bottom. The pies are held together by just the right amount of tomato sauce and cheese, with neither overpowering the other but melding beautifully. This pizza is a different dish entirely from the trendier thin-crusted style.
The best accompaniment is, of course, the classic antipasto salad with its cubes of ham, salami, provolone cheese, olives and lettuce in Italian dressing. While that probably isn't original with founder Guerra, it is as much a Detroit dish as the pizza itself. Cloverleaf's newly pared-down menu — it's still a little too long — also offers a number of Italian American dishes, from lasagna to eggplant Parmesan, but I go for the pizza every time.
Cloverleaf is divided into two rooms, with the larger bar on one side, and the dining room with its red-and-white checked vinyl tablecloths and matching café curtains on the other. Black-and-white family photographs abound under festoons of twinkling Christmas lights that look just right in this unpretentious and endearing tribute to Gus Guerra, whose presence is so real you almost expect him to come bounding out of the kitchen.
Cloverleaf Bar & Restaurant
2443 Gratiot Ave., Roseville
Call: (586) 777-5391
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Thursday, 11 a.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday, noon-9 p.m. Sunday. All-you-can-eat lunch buffet from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. weekdays, Monday dinner buffet from 5-8 p.m., Sunday dinner buffet from noon-7 p.m.
Prices: Pizzas $6.80-$14.99, appetizer $5.95-$10.95 (the latter for a combo platter), burgers and sandwiches $6.95-$8.50, salads $1.95-$7.50, pastas and other entrees $9.25-$15.99
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar
Noise level: Moderate
Parking: Attached lot