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reviews of Mario's italian restaurant in Detroit?

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Will be giong to Michigan Opera Theater this week, and need a great Italian restaurant that will have at least some offerings for vegetarians as well. For four of us. Will we need reservations? Should we go somewhere else? TIA.

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  1. You'll have to drive to it, and you'll need reservations, but Giovanni's Ristorante at 330 S Oakwood Blvd. in Detroit is probably the best-reviewed Italian restaurant in the entire Metro area. www.giovannisristorante.com for menu perusal, directions, etc.

    They still make all their pasta by hand, you know.

    7 Replies
    1. re: boagman

      Good to know. Is this an implicit negative review of Mario's?

      The nice thing about Mario's is the shuttle to the MOT! (My in-laws also mentioned the idea and I am not sure any of us would like to have to drive there, park, and then drive to the MOT and park again, you know?)
      But if you're implying a negative review we will reconsider, I'm sure.

      1. re: IndyGirl

        No, it's not at all an implicit negative review of Mario's, since I've never been there. I don't give bad reviews unless I've had a bad experience.

        No, I was just giving you an alternate idea under your "Should we go elsewhere?" statement. Don't for a minute believe that I'm poo-pooing Mario's.

        Thanks for pointing out that my post could be taken in a different light than intended.

        1. re: boagman

          Ok, good to know!

          I just wanted to make sure I understood you fully. :) I have bookmarked Giovanni's in case someone else weighs in with a different opinion. The reviews on TravelAdvisor for Mario's are very mixed , but I tend to not take TA very seriously. I'd rather ask ChowHounds!

          1. re: IndyGirl

            I haven't been to Mario's, either, It's been there forever, and I've always wanted to try it. I have been to Roma Cafe and like it a lot--if you like old-school Italian cooking, with rich, flavorful sauces and waiters wearing tuxes, it will ring your bell. It is Detroit's oldest restaurant, dating to 1890, and it does tout its shuttle to the Red Wings games--they don't specifically mention the opera, but you could call and ask them if they'd haul you down there. Their website is:

            http://www.romacafe.com

            One more thing: if you decide to go with Boagman's suggestion (I liked Giovanni's too last time I went, but it's been a while), note that the Opera House parking structure is well lit, well organized (two exits), and 1/2 block from the opera doors.

            1. re: Jim M

              Giovanni's is in the middle of an industrial area, and you may drive away because it looks spooky. I've eaten there and it's good, but I wouldn't necessarily make a special trip there.

              Re Mario's, I have never been able to figure out its appeal. It is always packed with lawyers, cops and hockey fans. If you go at lunchtime, you'll find it hard to get a table. Why, I don't know, because the menu is like a throwback to the 1950s when nobody knew much more about Italian food than red sauce.

              The Roma is much, much, better and it's actually closer to the Opera House. It's behind Eastern Market so don't think you're lost, just keep driving. Now, that looks a little dumpy, but the pastas are fantastic (try the lasagne or the hay and straw) and people tell me that their veal is out of this world. I don't eat veal so I can't vouch for that, but I have had chicken marsala and it's terrific.

              1. re: brendastarlet

                i have been to both many times. mario's is very good. throwback is a good way to describe it but it is also a little more upscale in decor and the menu is broader.

                roma is litterally a 100 year old place and it is excellent. it is a little more old world and similar to some of the family places in little italy in nyc. the wait staff is tuxedo clad and very professional. the food is outstanding. the veal parmigana is a generous piece of veal with a side of pasta with meat sauce and a vegetable - very, very good. the tortellini is also excellent. two of my other favorites are paglia e fieno ("straw and hay" - green and white linguini in a cream sauce with prosciutto and peas) and linguini with red clam sauce.

                in my office we have a running debate over who makes the best salad. i lean toward roma's. order one for the table, prepared by the waiter at his station and plated. simple iceburg with tomatoes in a light vinegrette. sprinkle a little parmesean on top. and ask for a side of anchovies.

                both are very good. but if i were choosing, i would go to roma.

                both places may run shuttles to the m.o.t.

                let us know where you end up.

                1. re: xman887

                  I've been to both - I prefer Giovanni's to Mario's.