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, Michigan.

Menu: The menu, based on northern Italian cuisine, 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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