With so many high-profile restaurants in the spotlight lately, it’s refreshing to visit an unassuming spot that’s been around for a while. Salvatore Scallopini doesn’t try to wow us with surprises. It sticks to its basic Italian menu prepared in an open kitchen where flames rise around saute pans. Four bar stools there give diners a chance to watch the action.
The local chain founded by Larry Bongiovanni and his family in 1982, once a dozen strong, but now just a handful, has been spun off to individual owners, such as Dida Paloka, who worked his way up from the lowest rank to ownership. He runs the the Grosse Pointe Woods restaurant, where I dined recently, and also the spot at 22611 Gratiot in Eastpointe.
The Scallopini in the Woods is typical of the friendly, unpretentious Italian restaurants and it has an especially loyal fan base. The waitstaff greets many diners by name and the owner and his brother are often on hand. The attractive atmosphere includes a patio bright with blooming plants and flowers.
The small bar at the entrance is separated from the dining room by a row of cafe curtains The room, softly lit by schoolhouse lamps and wall sconces, offers most of the seating, with one cozy table tucked into an alcove. Framed paintings and posters adorn the white tile wall.
The menu hasn’t changed much during the years. It offers crowd-pleasing dishes, including spaghetti and meatballs, eggplant Parmesan and lasagna, the kind of trusty Italian fare that is perennially popular and impervious to momentary trends.
Among non-pasta selections is an appetizer of flash-fried calamari served with the house ammoglio sauce, a nicely spicy version of the sauce that also comes to the tables for dipping with Italian bread. For a treat, trade in the plain bread for garlic bread hot from the oven.
Grilled salmon in a sauce of diced tomatoes, olive oil and garlic is served over angel hair pasta and it is a frequent special.
Another is the entree of two grilled beef tenderloin filets, the highest priced menu item at $21.95, and a virtual bargain in the steakhouse world.
The price structure here is affordable, the familiar fare is well-prepared and the staff is dedicated. That pretty much explains why this comfortable spot is busy most of the time.
19655 Mack Avenue, Grosse Pointe Woods
Call: (313) 886-3850
Rating: ★★ 1/2
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Thurs. and Sun., 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
Prices: Appetizers $7.95-$11.95, lunch entrees $11.95-$14.95, sandwiches and salads $8.95-$14.95; dinner entrees $13.95-$21.95, desserts $3.95-$7.50.
Liquor: Full bar and a small, but adequate wine list.
Noise level: Low to moderate
Wheelchair access: No barriers
Parking: Attached lot
What the ratings mean
★ — routine ★★ — good
★★ 1/2 — very good
★★★ — excellent
★★★★ — outstanding