Gratzi: Northern Italian Cuisine in Ann Arbor, Michigan

After dining at Gratzi, it seems to be the perfect name for this northern Italian restaurant. While I’m sure, the name is a nod in thanks from the restaurant to the diner, as the diner, the service, the food, and the ambiance are all reasons to be thankful for this experience.

Location: Gratzi located at 326 South Main Street in downtown Ann Arbor, .

Menu: The menu, based on , includes regional specialties like braised rabbit pappardelle. This part of Italy emphasizes butter over olive oil. While pasta is still an offering, it takes a back seat to rice and corn where they make appearances as comforting risotto and polenta.

Thoughts: Housed in the former Orpheum movie theater, some of the original layout remains. There’s a balcony, facing what was once the movie screen. Today a painted Renaissance-style mural replaces the movie screen. The painting surrounded by theatre-style velvet drapes gives the feeling of a movie playing on the screen. In an additional gesture to its history, there’s a magnificent sculpture of Orpheus, the poet, and musician, seated above the restaurant bar.

A combination of seating includes individual tables, a communal table, and booths. Four-button tufted fabric covered squares line the wall above and oval mirrors accent each booth.

The servers wear white button-down shirts, accented with bright red ties, black pants, covered with a full-length bib apron emblazoned with the restaurant’s name embroidered in a slanted script. As he greets us, the server pours water from a Tuscan blue bottle.

Our server was rarely out of view during the two-hour dining experience. Runners brought trays from the kitchen and placed them nearby for our waiter to serve. Our beverages remained full, and the appropriate utensils appeared auto-magically with each course.

Some of my favorite dishes include:

  • The crispy ravioli served on rectangular white appetizer plates. Herbs mixed with goat cheese fill the ravioli, served in a pool of basil pesto, topped with a confetti sprinkle of yellow and red bell peppers.
  • The Di Pere salad made with crisp romaine, honey roasted pears, toasted walnuts, crispy prosciutto, and mixed with a house-made pear and walnut vinaigrette.
  • The farfalle, a bowtie-shaped pasta, sautéed jumbo gulf shrimp, spinach, and goat cheese. The sauce is a roasted red pepper cream and basil oil. Mama Mucci’s, a local area pasta shop delivers the fresh artisanal pasta daily.
  • The Italian street corn is fresh roasted corn, mixed with chopped baby kale, diced red bell peppers and onions, smoked paprika, and a honey glaze. The corn and honey glaze combine to give the dish a distinctively sweet flavor.

I ordered the Genoa minestrone to warm up on the cold wintery Michigan day. As the waiter served the bowl, there was a tall formed mound of orzo, potato, carrot, savoy cabbage, tomato, spinach and cannelloni beans that presented as a side of vegetables. Since I had ordered soup, this was a bit surprising, and then the server produced out of nowhere, a silver pot of steaming broth. As he poured the broth over the mound of vegetables, it morphed into warm and delicious minestrone soup.

A breadbasket appears with two types of bread. The first is house-made focaccia riddled with herbs and topped with a slightly salty parmesan topping. The other is a rustic crusty loaf from the local Zingerman’s bakery.

Finally, as the meal ends each guest enjoys complimentary house-made limoncello, made from vodka, sugar and lemon juice and marinated in-house for 30 days.

Price Range: Appetizers range from $8 for Zucchini Friti to $14 for calamari. The salads are $7 for a basic salad, Insalata Mista to $14 for Insalata Tagliata that includes chicken that makes it an entree. Seven-inch thin-crust pizzettes, sized for one, range from $9 to $13. Pasta dishes range from $19 for classic spaghetti and meatball to $26 for pasta with lobster. Meat and fish entrees range from $26 for salmon to $39 for filet mignon. Desserts like tiramisu, definitely large enough to share, run about $8. Dinner for two runs about $75 including tax and gratuity.

For Pinterest: Pin this to your favorite Italian restaurant board.

Northern Italian cuisine with impeccable service

Amy Piper

Amy Piper is a freelance food and travel writer. She writes about food and multi-generational travel on her blog Follow the Piper. You can follow her on Twitter @amythepiper.

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