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December 12, 2013 - Image 114

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-12-12

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Wegaiwant Antonio's Cucina Italiana


Cucina Italiana

Family recipes prepared the old-fashioned way.

Allan Nahajewski { Contributing Writer


ugiero family members are look-
ing forward to an exciting 2014
when they will be celebrating
the 50th anniversary of their first res-
taurant, Roman Village Cucina Italiana
on Dix Avenue in Dearborn. The family
also will open its fifth location next
year at Plymouth and Merriman roads
in Livonia.
Antonio and Enrica (Rita) Rugiero
started it all in 1964. Their sons An-
thony, Marco, Robert and Patrick all
work in the family business.
"Growing up, the restaurant was our
playground," says Anthony, who today
is the company president. "We didn't
have babysitters, so we would spend most of
our time at the restaurant while mom and dad
worked. We learned a lot from being there."
Anthony and his brothers helped grow the
business, opening an Antonio's Cucina Italiana
on Ford Road in Dearborn Heights in 1992, on
12 Mile Road in Farmington Hills in 2000 and
on Canton Center Road in Canton in 2007.
All four restaurants have pasta factories in
the dining room where pasta is made daily, as
well as cappuccino machines imported from
Italy. All soups, sauces, breads and dressings
are made fresh daily in-house.
"In today's economy, family-owned restau-
rants that have been in business for 50 years
are not that common, and that's something
that comes through on everything we do,"
Rugiero says. "The recipes are the same ones
my mother used back home in Italy. Mom's
still in the kitchen overseeing food operations,
making sure that the quality is there, while my
brothers and I oversee the operations."
Rugiero said the cornerstones of the busi-
ness are great food, friendly service, a wonder-
ful atmosphere and a good price. The average
price of an entree is $12.
"My father taught us how to do things
old-school — hands-on, traditional, hard work
with ethics. We learned the value of a dollar
and how to run a business," he says.
"We incorporate new ideas, too. We keep
an open mind to understanding what people
are looking for today. You put that together,
and you've got a combination that nobody can
compete against."

46 JN Best of Michigan • December 2013

Robert, Mark, Rita, Anthony and Patrick Rugiero

The new elements include the restaurants'
"When you walk in the door, you see a nice,
clean place that feels up-to-date," says Ru-
giero. "It's authentic Venetian design — smart,
casual, yet family friendly. Even though Roman
Village has been around nearly 50 years, we've
updated the dining rooms, bar, kitchen and
bathrooms, so it looks brand new, too."
Signature dishes at the restaurants include
Gnocchi Rita, served with Mama Rita's
special pancetta and mushroom sauce, and
Chicken Antonio, pan-prepared tender breast
of chicken smothered in a creamy white
sauce topped with provolone cheese. Other
specialties include polenta, veal chops, award-
winning pizza, calzones, fresh-baked bread and
homemade cannoli.
"The quality is in the details," Rugiero
says. "People see it. They come in and sense
that family feel. You'd be surprised. Even a
consumer who's not Italian understands great
Italian food when they have it."
One house specialty is Spaghetti Carbonara

Alla Bocelli, a recipe that famous Italian
tenor and songwriter Andrea Bocelli
prepared himself at Roman Village
Italian Cucina.
"I sit on the board of the Opera
House, and I love Bocelli's music,"
Rugiero says. "When he came to town,
we met and found we had a lot in com-
mon. He loves to cook, so I invited him
to our restaurant to cook his favorite
dish. It was delicious. I asked if we
could add it to our menu; he said yes."
Anthony's mother Rita's home-
town is Perugia, just an hour's drive
to Bocelli's hometown of Volterra,
Italy, where Anthony is involved in the
University of Detroit Mercy-Volterra, a school
where American students study the art of Ital-
ian architecture.
Rugiero told the Jewish News that he is
especially grateful for the support he receives
from the Jewish community.
"My landlord, Stuart Frankel, is a great
friend who helped us open our business in
Dearborn Heights," he says. "I think Jewish
families are a lot like Italian families because
we both value tradition. We have many regu-
lar Jewish customers, and I know they respect
the fact that the food is made from scratch.
"We don't use artificial flavors or preserva-
tives. They love our chicken soup, because like
matzo ball soup, it's made the old-fashioned
way with real soup hens, not with bouillon
cubes. They love our minestrone soup. They
say it's the one of the best they've ever had."
Rugiero says that one growing tradition is
for customers to come in to buy take-and-bake
lasagna the day before a holiday so they can
make it a part of their holiday meals.
Another popular dish during hunting season
is rabbit cacciatore.
"Cacciatore means hunter in Italian," says
Rugiero. "People are familiar with chicken cac-
ciatore, but traditionally, it's made with rabbit.
My mother makes it in the morning, and it's
gone that day."
All four restaurants are open seven days
a week. For menus and further information
about banquets, catering, gift cards and
special events, visit www.antoniosrestaurants.
com .

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