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Abraham: La Lanterna continues Da Edoardo tradition

Molly Abraham
The Detroit News

The sign on the façade reads “Est. 1956,” a tribute to the founder of the Da Edoardo restaurants, the first Edoardo Barbieri who started it all in Capitol Park with a restaurant called La Lanterna.

Now it’s his grandson Eddie, Eddie’s wife, Susie, and sister Ann Barbieri-Kolinski, reviving the spot in the heart of downtown Detroit, although not in the precise location. The first La Lanterna was across the park from the new one (the original spot was taken by Eatori, the upcoming greengrocer/restaurant), so the Barbieris found space in the Albert Building for their 63-seat restaurant.

And grandfather might be surprised by its contemporary interior, though certainly not by the classic Italian menu. This version of Lanterna is not the little Italian cantina that some might have expected, but a 2017 version in a setting far from folksy cliches. No candles in straw-wrapped Chianti bottles here.

The high-ceilinged room is free from extraneous trappings, from the white marble-topped bar at the entrance to the open kitchen in the rear, where a white marble counter gives diners who choose one of the five seats a view of the pizza-making in the red brick Marra oven.

Tables line both sides of the room under tiny spotlights, and big framed mirrors define white walls. It’s clean, crisp and functional, and it was put together, not by a hired design firm, but by sisters-in-law Susie and Ann.

Eddie Barbieri presides over the menu, which is as well-edited as the décor, offering a reasonable number of dishes, beginning with an antipasto misto of mortadella prosciutto, salami and Parmigiano Reggiano that is just right for sharing. Another notable appetizer is prettily plated meatballs with a plume of fresh basil, tomato sauce and ricotta cheese. Although the list of white and red pizzas might seem to dominate the single-page menus —and they are excellent, with crisp crust and interesting toppings, such as the Rocket, fresh mozzarella, goat cheese and fontina topped with a big handful of fresh arugula — there is more, from a baked breast of chicken dish that dates to the original La Lanterna, to salmon with capers and lemon butter sauce.

Pasta dishes are lovely, and served in reasonably sized portions. This is not a place that dishes up mountains of spaghetti in red sauce, but one that plates the noodles elegantly. The word elegant also applies to the wine glasses and other barware, and the gleaming silverware. Everything here is brand new and obviously well chosen. One particularly appealing choice is the pasta combination, a chance to try three varieties in small sizes. It brings a ricotta and herb-filled ravioli, a tangle of tagliatelle with Bolognese sauce and a scattering of green peas, and tiny potato dumplings (gnocchi) with tomato cream sauce arranged on one of the white plates. Each pasta is also offered on its own.

La Laterna is more casual than the Da Edoardo restaurants, and the menu is smaller, but it adheres to the family’s high standards. No doubt the founder would be proud.

abraham67@comcast.net

La Lanterna

1224 Griswold, Detroit

Call: (313) 962-8821

Web: lalanternadetroit.com

Rating: ★★★

Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., and Sun., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.

Prices: Appetizers $6-$16, pizzas $11-$14, panini (lunch only) $10-$12, pastas and entrees $14-$18, desserts $6

Credit cards: All major

Liquor: Full bar

Noise level: Moderate

Parking: Street, nearby lot and structures.

Wheelchair access: No barriers

What the ratings mean

★ — routine ★★ — good ★★ 1/2 — very good

★★★ — excellent ★★★★ — outstanding