Friday, August 21, 2009

DRW Preview #1: Andiamo on the Riverfront

My first restaurant outing courtesy of Detroit Restaurant Week brought me to Andiamo on the Riverfront, one of 11 metro-area outposts of the Andiamo Restaurant Group. The always-bustling Riverwalk was particularly busy on this day, as they were preparing for the evening's Rockin' on the Riverfront performance, a free summertime concert series presented in part by Andiamo. Despite how busy they were, Chef Edward Bailey still took time to chat with me about their participation in the upcoming innagural Detroit Restaurant Week.

Chef Edward has been with Andiamo for 12 years, serving as the executive chef of this downtown location for the past five. He trained at the Golightly Career and Tech Center (a career-training program offered to high school students in the Detroit Public School System), where he now serves as the Chairman of the Advisory Board for their Culinary Program.

When I asked him what is happening at Andiamo right now that he's most excited about (besides Detroit Restaurant Week, obviously!), his face lit up as he talked excitedly about Andiamo's new "Lean" menu. Andiamo Corporate Chef Jim Oppat teamed with Board-Certified Physican and Nutrition Specialist Dr. Tom Rifai to create this special prix fixe menu which includes an appetizer, entree, and fresh fruit panna cotta for dessert, priced at $17.95-$31.95 for all three courses. All "Andiamo Lean" selections contain minimal saturated and no trans fat, no gluten, no soy or nut products and are low in sodium. As an added bonus, each meal (regardless of the combination you choose) is fewer than 600 calories. Enjoy full-sized portions of robust Italian dishes that just so happen to be good for you at a price that's also good for your wallet!

MY visit, however, cost me a few more than 600 calories. Chef Edward presented me with plate after plate (after plate) of selections from Andiamo's just-finalized DRW menu. Portabella mushrooms in Zip sauce (a highly condensed salty butter sauce made with beef stock, garlic, and a variety of spices, which was created right here in the Motor City), Suppli alla Romana (deep-fried risotto balls stuffed with melted mozzarella), Fettucine Alfredo, Chicken alla Valdostana (breaded chicken with prosciutto and fontina cheese in a roasted garlic white wine sauce), and Trancia di Salmone (broiled Atlantic Salmon topped with tomato, garlic, olive oil, and fresh herbs). After all this, he still offered me a dessert, but at this rate I might not be able to eat again until Detroit Restaurant Week. I suppose this is what authentic Italian hospitality looks like! (Though Italians get offended if you don't eat everything on your plate...I sure hope Chef Ed was understanding in this matter.)

The real standouts here were the Portabella mushrooms--marinated, grilled, sliced Portabella mushrooms that were meaty and seemed almost au Poivre (coated in cracked peppercorn) and were further complimented by the rich, salty zip sauce--and the Chicken alla Valdostana, a hearty dish tempered by a light white wine sauce.

After all this FOOD, I was thankful I had the foresight to walk to the restaurant from my home so I could at least burn off a few of the many calories I had just ingested. But--anything for my adoring public!

The official Andiamo DRW menu--3 courses at a fixed $27.00 exclusive of tax and tip--follows below. Remember, Restaurant Week runs September 18-27, and each week leading up to the main course I'll be providing you with little appetizers of different participating restaurants. And thanks again to Chef Ed for ALL that FOOD! (Seriously, I really don't think I'm going to be able to eat again for the next month.)

Andiamo on the Riverfront Detroit Restaurant Week Menu

Choice of One Appetizer
~Bruschetta all Pomodoro
~Suppli alla Romano
~Portabella Mushroom with Zip Sauce

Entree (Choice)
~Caesar Salad with Chicken
~Fettucine Alfredo with Chicken Tenderloins
~Spaghetti alla Bolognese/Pomodoro
~Ravioli alla Aldo
~Manicotti alla Pomodoro
~Chicken alla Marsala
~Chicken alla Valdostana
~Whitefish alla Siciliano
~Trancia di Salmone

Choice of One Dessert
~Homemade Tiramisu
~Homemade Cannoli
~Gelato or Sorbetto