There’s a budding trend toward combining restaurants with food markets. Gaudino’s, in a handsome free-standing building in St. Clair Shores, is a case in point.
In addition to its Italian menu, it offers imported pastas, seasonings and sauces on one side of its main dining room, a butcher counter with house-made sausages and a wine assortment on the other, and in the middle, a handsome marble-topped bar centered with a “tree” made of wood from wine barrels. At the side, a deli counter.
A focal point of the room is the open kitchen, where Executive Chef Joe Beato heads the staff wearing black skull caps with their chefs’ whites. There are a few seats in front of the kitchen, which is surrounded by theatrical-style lights that surely make the chefs feel important. And, of course, they are.
It’s all very well done, and any one aspect of the clever combination really doesn’t overpower the others.
The menu doesn’t deviate from an Italian spin. It offers pastas and pizza, salads and entrees, including a lovely chicken Milanese that belies the reputation of chicken breast as boring. It is very lightly breaded and its accompaniments of roasted corn, tomato and arugula are just right. It is offered at both lunch and dinner.
Pasta dishes are made with imported Italian noodles, much better than their American counterparts, but the proprietors, JoMarie and Thomas Amato, are hoping to add house-made pasta in the near future. I enjoyed the Porcellino, made with rigatoni and house sausage, along with fresh tomato and arugula. Spaghetti and meatballs? Of course.
Thin-crusted pizzas are excellent, and there are seven varieties, including the Margherita, the simple mozzarella and pepperoni, and an interesting white pizza with three cheeses and Bechamel sauce, as well as a chance to create-your-own, at $10 and $11.
The menu is backed up by a small, but focused and mostly Italian wine list, typified by the elegant Castello di Querceto at $9 per glass, a generous pour in a stemless glass.
There are also cocktails and some interesting beers, and espresso and cappuccino among several coffee variations.
Seating is at conventional tables, a few high-tops and one communal table. Service is friendly, a reflection of the proprietors, who are obviously enjoying what they do.
There’s a back story to Gaudino’s. JoMarie Amato is the granddaughter of the founder of Gaudino’s Market, established during the ’40’s in Detroit and moved later to St. Clair Shores. The new and impressive Gaudino’s is on the very spot where the market once stood, bringing the family story full circle.
27919 Harper, St. Clair Shores
Call: (586) 879-6764
Rating: ★★ 1/2 — very good
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tues.-Sat., noon-7 p.m. Sun. Market opens one hour earlier Tues.-Sat.
Prices: Lunch Appetizers $7-$11, salads $4-$9, sandwiches $9-$11, pastas $12-$14, pizzas $10-$13; dinner appetizers $7-$12, $4-$10, entrees $11-$19, pastas $14-$25, pizzas $10-$13, desserts $5-$10
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar
Noise level: Moderate to high
Wheelchair access: No barriers
Parking: Attached lot
What the ratings mean
★ — routine ★★ — good ★★ 1/2 — very good
★★★ — excellent ★★★★ — outstanding