The first time Nicole Miller’s 6-year-old daughter ate the food at the restaurant her mother manages, it made her cry.
But not in a bad way, said the Macomb Township resident and director of hospitality at Bar Verona in Commerce Township. These were tears of joy.
“She said, ‘I don’t want to tell you.’ And I’m like, ‘What?,'” Miller said. “She said, ‘I like it better than yours.'”
Miller and the rest of the staff at the Commerce Township restaurant, located at 500 Loop Road along the M-5 freeway just north of 14 Mile, hope the food at the restaurant leaves such a lasting impression on its customers, tears or no tears.
The restaurant, which opened Monday, replaces the former Johnny Carino’s Italian restaurant in the area just north of Novi that closed earlier this year. After the former Italian restaurant closed, the crew with Bar Verona came in and revamped the space, making improvements to the bar, dining area and exterior of the restaurant and brought in a new menu full of traditional favorites and new twists on classical food.
Coming into the space in Commerce Township was a deliberate move, Miller said, as the restaurant’s ownership believe the area is in need of such a place to eat.
“We think that we a really nice market here,” Miller said.
The space was perfect for Bar Verona, headed by celebrity chef Fabio Viviani, who launched the restaurant and will come to town from time to time to oversee the restaurant, Miller said.He was in town last weekend as the restaurant opened, engaging with guests and overseeing the kitchen.
Viviani, who appeared on Bravo’s “Top Chef” in 2008, is expected to pop in at the restaurant every once in a while to check in and help with keeping the restaurant running. When he’s there, he’s engaged in the operations, said restaurant manager Brian Hill.
“He’s in the kitchen, he’s working with everybody,” the Ann Arbor resident said. “When he speaks, it’s inspirational.”
As for the menu, the restaurant hopes to draw in a wide range of guests, from casual diners to the serious Italian food fanatics. The dishes, brought to life by executive chef Johnathan Lynch, are designed to bring out the best in flavor and presentation.
“It’s the approach to food that I’m a fan of,” he said. “The attention to details are inside of the food so that when it comes out, it looks very simple, but the taste has that complexity to it.”
Dishes include traditional spaghetti, lasagna, fettuccine and melon salad, among others. Dishes designed to be noticeable include the Verona pizza, the pie designed to stand out among the unique plates at the restaurant, Lynch said.
While the restaurant is only open for dinner, the hope is to eventually open for lunch later this summer, Miller said. That menu is still being worked on and will be revealed at a later date.
The restaurant is the first of several Bar Verona’s planned for metro Detroit. Another restaurant is expected to open in October on Van Dyke Avenue in Washington Township, as well as locations in hotels in Shelby Township and Detroit.
More information, including how to make reservations, can be found at barverona.com.