Chef/proprietor Salvatore Monteleone wears a bright red chef’s jacket. And it is just the right touch for this tall, enthusiastic man who runs his restaurant in European fashion. He’s a maestro very much in charge, but with a personality that keeps him from seeming stern.
Monteleone is the culinary talent behind Sapori, a restaurant named for the Sicilian word for flavors, offering a menu of dishes from his background as a chef first in Valderice, Sicily, where he was born, and since 1999, here.
Just prior to opening Sapori, he presided over the open kitchen at Bucci in Grosse Pointe Woods for four years, interacting easily with diners as he prepared their veals and pastas. At Sapori, the kitchen is behind the scenes, but that doesn’t stop the chef from stopping by tables to chat.
The dining room, done up with latticework overhead and faux windows on the interior wall — giving the illusion of a country inn — is separate from the cocktail lounge, which has a number of tables tucked into dividers across from the bar. In all, the restaurant seats a few more than one hundred, but seems much cozier than that suggests.
Service very much reflects the maestro. Servers are courteous and seem to enjoy their work and that adds to the appeal of this surprising place.
Some of Monteleone’s signature dishes are available at lunch, as well as dinner. His devotion to fresh ingredients — he goes to farmers’ markets himself — is particularly noticeable with the six composed salads, typified by peasant salad, a mix of small nuggets of boiled potato, beautifully slim whole green beans, a generous scattering of kalamata olives, ruffles of greens and hard-cooked egg tossed in the house balsamic dressing, and by another summery treat, plump shrimp teamed with Boston lettuce, orange segments, a raspberry or two, pistachios and tomato in subtle lemon dressing.
An array of pastas from angel hair and linguine to casarecce, a Sicilian twisted tube pasta that teams especially well with pesto, may be ordered with a choice of no less than nine sauces, including such classics as Bolognese, puttanesca, arrabbiata and alfredo. Each dish comes with soup or salad, at $13 for lunch, $15 for dinner. Soups include chicken tortellini, a chunky minestrone in which the vegetables are clearly recognizable, not disguised, and a third soup of the day.
The menu expands at dinner with heartier dishes, such as filet mignon, steak Siciliano, saltimbocca and zuppa di pesce, the seafood soup that includes scallops, shrimp, mussels and clams in a broth of white wine and tomatoes. At dinner, all entrees are served with soup and salad.
The parade doesn’t let up when it’s time for dessert. The seven choices include filled-to-order cannoli, panna cotta with raspberry sauce, hazelnut semifreddo and house-made gelato in an array of flavors from Michigan cherry to chocolate hazelnut. That gelato is a house specialty is quickly surmised at the sight of a colorful gelato cart parked near the flower-bedecked patio.
Indoors and out, Sapori is a welcome addition to the lively local restaurant scene.
6067 26 Mile, at Mound, Washington Twp.
Call: (586) 786-4674
Hours: noon-9 p.m. Sun., 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri., 3-11 p.m. Sat.
Prices: Appetizers $11-$15, sandwiches $11-$14, salads $10-$15, simple pasta dishes $15, more elaborate pastas $17-$26, meat and fish entrees $18-$30, desserts $4-$6.
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar
Noise level: Moderate
Parking: Strip mall lot
Wheelchair access: No barriers