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Norberto Garita put the corner of Michigan Avenue and Junction on the map in 2007 when he opened El Barzon with a menu of Mexican and Italian dishes that turned out to be a crowd-pleaser. At the time he bought that building, he also bought its neighbor, with plans to do something with the second one in the future.

The future is now.

La Noria Bistro opened a month ago next door to El Barzon after an extensive remodeling of the space. And although he originally visualized something less elaborate, Garita has turned the new spot into an equal partner with the first in terms of ambition.

The brick-walled space with garage door-style windows that swing open on two sides when the weather permits has an interesting menu that combines Garita’s experience, but doesn’t duplicate its brother restaurant.

There’s more emphasis on the bar, which is especially well-stocked with tequilas, in fact there are more than two dozen of them handsomely displayed against mirrors. The bar is in the second of the two dining rooms with tables, as well as cozy booths, against the back wall. It also includes an impressive Marra Forni Neapolitan brick oven, something Garita discovered at a food show in Chicago.

It uses gas and wood and heats to 900 degrees. Seats around its perimeter allow guests to watch their pizzas being made. Seven varieties are available, and my choice was the classic Margherita with fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil on a thin — but not too-thin — crust.

Other notable dishes include beautiful little open-face tacos on soft corn tortillas with onion and cilantro and such fillings as steak, chicken, marinated pork, chorizo or goat, at a modest $2.50. Enchiladas may be had filled with queso fresca or chicken and finished with a robust red sauce that has a sneakily spicy finish, and they are among 11 entrees that include chicken Milanaise and eggplant, veal or shrimp Parmesan.

Among the salad options is ensalada La Norita, with arugula, tomato and fresh fruit, and it’s a welcome change from the norm.

Service is by a cheerful and well-trained staff that includes Garita’s wife, Silvia, son Bertin and daughter Vanessa, who are very much involved in aspects of the restaurants and the success of this little corner of Southwest Detroit.

La Noria Bistro

5517 Michigan, Detroit

Call: (313) 338-3545

Rating: ★★★

Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tues.-Fri., noon-10 p.m. Sat., noon-9 p.m. Sun. Closed Mon.

Prices: Appetizers including tacos $2.50-$10, salads $5-$11, entrees $12-$18, pizzas $10-$18, desserts $3.50 at lunch and dinner (to be adjusted soon to separate pricing)

Credit cards: All major

Liquor: Full bar, with an emphasis on tequila

Noise level: Moderate

Parking: Rear lot

Wheelchair access: No barriers

What the ratings mean

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

★★★ — excellent ★★★★ — outstanding

abraham67@comcast.net

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