Via Cucina: A ‘let’s-have-fun-with-it’ eatery
Looking for a place to have great food and a good time? OU News Bureau reporters have visited some distinctive eateries in Metro Detroit to learn more about what these places have to offer. Reporter Shana Bosley visited Via Cucina in Rochester and spoke with owner Danny Bologna.
Tell me about the history of this place.
My parents opened their first restaurant on November 12th, ’85, my first birthday. They were in the business before, but that was their first. That restaurant is still open today. I learned everything I know from my parents and from working with my grandparents. I have a couple of my own restaurants now.
My grandpa had a restaurant chain in metro Detroit called Captains. When my dad married my mom, he was very interested in the restaurant business and went to culinary school in Macomb. His father was in the produce business, so the Italian side was in the produce business, and my mom’s family was in the restaurant business. So he started working for his father-in-law and really liked it. He opened up his first restaurant and from there opened up a place in St Clair Shores, Madison Heights, Algonac. So there’s three generations so far in the restaurant business.
Describe what it offers its patron.
The Rochester location is a fun, hip, trendy, family-style Italian. It’s not the fine dining special occasion. It’s the everyday lets-have-fun-with-it Italian. You can enjoy nice, handcrafted cocktails, a bowl of handmade spaghetti. All the Italian recipes are from my grandma. The meatballs, sausages, pasta sauces and dressings are homemade. We have a lot of family recipes. This location is also very Michigan-inspired. I think what makes Italian so good, or any cultural themed restaurant, is getting ingredients locally, so this is our take on Italian food in the States. It is American-Italian. There are some really great restaurants that are super strict, fine dining, high-end Italian that follow old world guidelines. This restaurant is grandma’s recipes but with Michigan ingredients, so there’s a little twist to it.
Why would someone want to come here?
No. 1: the quality of the food. Everything is fresh. Super hot sauces. I love the lasagna. It’s a great location. It’s a comfortable, cozy, small atmosphere. We have two dining rooms: one in the back, which can be for parties and is a little bit more family oriented and a little quieter, then the fun, hip bar with the view of Main Street. The atmosphere, the service, the food, I think we’re doing it all right. We’ve had 40-plus years to learn it.
What do you do that’s different from other places like this?
We’re changing our menu all the time, making sure it’s the most up to date and keeping the traditional, popular dishes and throwing in seasonal dishes. So it’s not just dinner specials that are seasonal, we do update our full menu to make sure that we always have the right products on there. Also the tables are all Michigan reclaimed barn wood. There’s about three different types of wood in here, and they’re between 60 and 120 years old. They’re all Amish made.
What’s the one thing everyone should order here?
There’s not just one. The casalinga is a baked pasta with a homemade meat sauce, freshly baked three cheese blend, homemade meatballs, and homemade sausage. People can create their own pasta here, but this dish has a nice sample of everything. Another thing I enjoy is the Traverse City chicken, which is an almond crusted chicken with sautéed mushrooms, Michigan dried cherries, cherry brandy cream sauce.
How many people do you have working here?
We have about 20 or 25 people at this location.
What do you think the future holds for this place?
I purchased the building, so this is a long-term kind of deal. We’ll always be trying to reinvent ourselves and keep the image and menu fresh. We’re a small restaurant, so we can make changes quickly. Changes with the economy or external factors, we can adjust quickly, which you need to be able to do to be successful in the restaurant business.
Via Cucina is at 334 S. Main in Rochester, Michigan. (248) 651-3300
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