I wasn’t around when Antonio’s Cucina got its start in 1964. Or, when Salvatore Scallopini first opened its doors in 1982. Or even in 1989 when Joe Vicari founded the original Andiamo in Warren. While the culinary conglomerates were individually working to become metro Detroit’s fixtures for celebrating special occasions over spaghetti and cannoli, I instead was awakening my palette to Italian food in New York via dishes passed down from my great aunt who’d shared recipes she learned from her Italian in-laws. But, seated at a back corner table at Bar Verona in Commerce Township, swirling noodles laced with tears of fresh basil, slices of garlic, and translucent pieces of diced onion, I could almost guarantee the newcomer is destined for a similar fate as the Italian chains that came before it.
The success story for Bar Verona begins a little differently than the geneses of its predecessors, which take pride in their humble beginnings. Contrary to the bootstraps backstory for Scallopini and Andiamo, Bar Verona is the trustfund baby of Italian restaurants, if you will, destined for success as the brainchild of celebrity chef Fabio Viviani and Yellow Door Hospitality Group. A former contestant on Bravo’s Top Chef, just one of a series of broadcast appearances, Viviani’s star power offers the budding restaurant a leg up as it carves a name for itself in a landscape of several well-loved Italian eateries.
A native of Florence, Italy, Viviani takes a uniquely modern approach to authentic Italian cooking. Whereas some restaurateurs aim to replicate the nostalgia of dining in Italy — checkered tablecloths draped across square tables, nods to the Italian flag placed throughout the space, and on the menu, chicken parmesan dishes drowning in “secret sauces” passed down for generations — Viviani instead fuses the traditional with the unconventional.
At Bar Verona, burrata is served on country bread and neatly topped with crispy slivers of house-cured pancetta, a dollop of sweet tomato jam, and shreds of fried sage. The crispy-creamy, sweet-salty, combo satisfies many cravings in one serving.
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