I was reading the paper this morning and there was a supplement about a film festival in Detroit and one of the films was “Dinner in Abruzzo: A Journey Home with My Culinary Godfather” and it featured two of the culinary leaders in the Detroit area. The two chefs are Luciano Del Signore and James Rigato and we have had the good fortune to have dined at their restaurants. Luciano, we first met when he was working for his family at Fonte d’Amore in Livonia and I have written about it once before, but to be truthful, we probably ate there at least once if not twice a month, it was that spectacular and really affordable.
The restaurant was always busy and we adored our one special waiter there, who we always tried to sit in his station, but then so many others did as well. No matter what day we went there, it was busy, but we always seemed to be able to get a table, and I think that we probably tried every dish on the menu, plus all of their specials. Luciano would always walk around the tables after the rush was done in the kitchen to make sure that everyone was pleased. Of course, as the years progressed my Bride would sometimes get lonesome, because I would run into more and more people at the restaurant and I would have to acknowledge them, especially since most were customers of mine at the store. We were always going there, just as a couple or with multiple friends for a night out. The veal was awesome, the pastas and the steaks were great. Luciano also explained to my Bride one night, his trick for making the salmon dishes perfect, and she uses that trick to this day. It was one of the restaurants that I would always have soup at, and it was the “Garlic Soup,” actually it was their “Malanzane Soup,” but that is one vegetable that I just cannot abide, but in this pureed version of a soup with pureed roasted garlic, I could not taste the eggplant. In fact, that soup was so wonderful that we would buy a gallon of it for parties at the house and put it in a heated tureen with their fresh baked bread, and people would just dip the bread in the tureen as a great appetizer before dinner ever started.
The wine list was heavily slanted towards Italian wines and with good reason as it blended so harmoniously with the dishes being offered. The Del Signore family was from the village of Fonte D’Amore in Abruzzo, Italy and there were plenty of photos and signposts from the village found all over the restaurant and it made everyone feel at home. The two wines that we would order over and over again were Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo DOC and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG and while they sounded similar, they were not and sometimes causes confusion. Our most popular wine there, bar none was Illuminati Riparosso Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, which is from Abruzzo and made from the Montepulciano grape. Azienda Aericolo Dino Illuminati was founded in 1890 and they are famed for their wines. This particular wine that they make is from fruit all harvested from one single hillside vineyard and is aged for eight months in Slavonia Oak and then aged for an additional two to three months in the bottle before release. For years, it was not only our go-to wine at the restaurant, but we would have a couple of cases of it in our cellar as well. One of the other wines that we would enjoy would be something like Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 1998, the difference being that this wine came from the village of Montepulciano in Tuscany and is made from the Sangiovese grape, and back in the day it was blended with a bit of Merlot, but lately it is now pure Sangiovese. Avignonesi was founded in 1974 and now has a steady following of their own, as they offer several different wines. This particular wine is aged for eighteen months in oak and nine months in the bottle before release. There are times when I feel like having one over the other, but they both are great with meals and one couldn’t go wrong. I also fondly remember leaving my Bride at the table for a few minutes as I would go to the back part of the restaurant where the bar was and have a short intermission cigar, especially if Luciano was holding court and have a few minutes with him.