There are a handful of places I love to visit when I go home to Grosse Pointe to visit my parents — one of them is Bucci, an unexpectedly good Italian bistro worthy of a New York City corner, but nestled between a barber shop and a physical therapy storefront in suburban Michigan.
Bucci, the childhood nickname of Chef and owner, Bujar Mamuslari, was established in 1999 and has been packing seats with its open kitchen concept ever since. The extensive Italian menu was inspired by Bujar’s travels throughout Italy during a summer culinary school internship. Hitching a ride from town to town, Bujar was welcomed into the kitchens (and generations of nonna’s family secrets) in homes spanning the knickers to the heal of Italy’s boot.
Sitting at Bucci’s kitchen bar this evening, we had a front row seat to witness how all those countryside learnings inspired Bujar’s own stateside venture. There was so much going on at once, it was hard to keep track of it all. As our waitress chatted with us, she uncorked our wine and shouted out our calamari order to the chef, who with a nod, relayed to the line cook to toss the squid and peppers onto a sizzling pan, all while throwing the makings of, what I counted to be, 30 take-out orders into pots and pans for expedited boiling and saucing. Down the line, the third cook was expertly lining up each of the take-out containers, filling, stacking and double checking each order before moving them aside for pick-up. All of this was over in a matter of minutes and the three behind the counter were back on point, preparing dishes for the dining room. Easy entertainment while we sipped our wine and tore at our fresh Italian bread.
Back in suburbia, entrees still come with a soup or salad (why doesn’t anyone do this in NYC?) It’s not just a small, wilted pile of mixed greens drenched in house dressing. No, at Bucci you can have any salad off the menu as a side to your entree. I went for the spinach salad with crumbled blue cheese, walnuts and dried cherries, all tossed in a lovely bright lemon dressing.
For my entree, the Veal Pizzaiola topped with fresh tomatoes, herbs, olives capers and parmigiana reggiano was calling my name. The meal itself, was a thing of beauty, but what added to the artful presentation of Italian flavors was a crafty little plate painting drawn using oils and vinegar in the shape of a flower.
Generally with Christmas around the corner I would have saved room and passed on dessert, but there was mention of a homemade hazelnut semi-freddo, enrobed in a warm chocolate sauce — one order, 3 spoons please! Just as no dish before it, the dessert did not disappoint.
The Skim: Next time you find yourself in the Detroit area and looking for a hearty meal reminiscent of a trip to Italy, pay a visit to Bucci. Everything from the fresh, warm bread to anything on the actual menu will have you thinking your Italian grandmother is in the kitchen. And whether you’re chatting with Bucci, his wife or any of the friendly staff you will feel as though you have been welcomed into someone’s house for a home-cooked meal.
Map: 20217 Mack Avenue, Grosse Pointe Woods, MI