The news a few months ago that the venerable Roma Cafe was closing sent a wave of consternation around town. How could the longest-running restaurant in the city shut its doors? The panic didn’t last long. To the rescue came Guy Pelino, who had been the chef for four years for the retiring Sossi family, whose patriarch had taken over the premises in 1936. Pelino would continue the saga of the 1886 building on the edge of the Eastern Market.
Pelino made some improvements in the kitchen and the main dining room and opened the doors to Amore da Roma in December. He kept the Roma menu, adding just one appetizer — the charcuterie board — and updating the wine list. He did not try to change the character of this venerable spot, and its fans are thankful. It would have been a mistake to try to make this old-school restaurant trendy.
So rest assured that you’ll find reliable pastas from spaghetti and meatballs, baked lasagna and linguine with clam sauce, a nicely balanced minestrone that is not heavily tomato-y, as is so often the case, and garlicky shrimp scampi as always.
Entrees still include a couple of relatively affordable steaks, filet mignon in 7- and 9-ounce cuts ($31 and $35 respectively), and scallopinis from Marsala to saltimbocca in a choice of veal or chicken. Try the classic scallopine lemone, sauteed simply with lemon, butter and white wine. There is always a fresh fish or two on the list, notably the local favorite lake perch.
The service staff has new blood, a definite improvement over the days when some of the waiters seemed to be channeling your grouchy uncle. Seating is in two dining rooms and the small bar. The Monday evening buffet ($21) continues in the main dining room.
Further improvements brought by the new regime include inexpensive valet parking and a shuttle that takes patrons to and from events around downtown. And as the downtown scene gets busier and busier, that’s a real plus.
Amore da Roma
3401 Riopelle, Detroit
Call: (313) 831-5940
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sun.
Prices: Lunch appetizers $10-$17, soups and salads $4.50-$10, pastas $13-$15, entrees $16-$27, dinner appetizers $11-$22, soups and salads
$4.50-$11, pastas $17-$29, entrees $22-$30, desserts $7-$8
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar
Noise level: Moderate
Wheelchair access: No barriers to first floor dining room (those using wheelchairs need to request seating in that room when reserving a table).
What the ratings mean
★ — routine ★★ — good ★★ 1/2 — very good
★★★ — excellent ★★★★ — outstanding