Recently Lynn (of Lynn and Sandy, long time friends and Italy trippers with us last fall) has an Italian barber named Frank, who suggested Cantoro's Italian Market & Trattoria. They have two locations--Plymouth and Livonia, Michigan. We asked Steve and Karen (the other two Italy trippers from our fall trip) and L&S to join us at the Plymouth Market for lunch, shopping, and reminiscing. L&S could not make it, but Steve and Karen were all in.
We thought it would be good to eat before shopping, so that we would not buy out the store. We started at the pleasant Italian decorated Trattoria for lunch and were seated by the fireplace. Three had prosecco and Steve went for the cappuccino. There were so many good options on the menu, we had a hard time choosing.
We shared a Caprese salad with the most wonderful heirloom tomatoes and fresh bufalo mozzarella cheese. Then we each ordered a different pizza: 1) radicchio, Kalamata olive, tapenade, Scamorzza cheese; 2) grilled artichoke pesto, thyme, mint, scallions, chives,garlic, mozzarella; 3) Margherita (tomato / mozzarella / basil); and 4) San Danielle prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, arugula dressing, pesto. Each was 12" in diameter and delicious. We all had some to take home for later.
As we ate, two folks came in and they were getting a lot of attention from the restaurant staff and other employees from the market. Lots of smiles and back pats and hand shaking. It turns out they are the owners of the market, Mario and Pat Fallone. Mario was born in San Elia, Italy, and in the 1950s came to America. In Detroit he got his feet wet in the grocery industry and has owned Cantoro's for almost 50 years.The couple had been traveling from Florida to their home in Michigan and stopped by their restaurant and market on the way. We said we were from Kalamazoo and were really enjoying our meal and were also looking forward to shopping. They were quite gracious and seemed like a very happy couple.
We chatted about our visit last fall to northern Italy, and that Mike and I were returning to see Rome on south to Positano this fall. We talked about food and Italy and G.B. Russo's. Mario said he was good friends with Phil Russo and to tell him "Hi!" next time we were there.
We got back to our meal and let them eat in peace. But a few minutes later our waitress presented a cheese, cold cuts, onion salsa, and olive assortment. Mario and Pat had treated us to this very special plate, which is not on the menu. There was chunky Parmesan, cheese with truffle bits, excellent cured meats, and more. We felt like we were back in Italy at a wine tasting or dinner. The quality was top shelf. Our waitress said that she loved working there because that was just the wonderful kind of people the Fallone's were.
On the way out, we stopped at their table to offer our greatest gratitude. All of the food was spectacular and the special plate was a real treat. As we chatted a bit more, the owner of Celani Family Vineyards stopped by the table. He is from Napa and had opened his winery the year after we left California, so we never had the chance to visit. He gave us his card and said to stop by if we ever made it out that way again.
Honestly I could have chatted with them all afternoon. We did find out that Mario and Pat will be in Sorrento about the time we will be there. So maybe our paths will cross again and we can continue the conversation.
At some point we had to get on with shopping at the market, and what a market! There is a hand-made gelato stand, an in-house bakery, a colorful fresh produce market, a huge cheese counter, an even "huge-er" meat counter, a deli counter with scores of ready made salads and dishes, a condiment bar, an olive bar, a fresh pasta counter, an extensive wine selection, and an enormous assortment of canned and packaged goods. Upstairs was a kitchen gadget and Italian accessories store. I just know I am forgetting to mention some other areas.
As we checked out, I saw this sign. It says "Life is too short to eat and drink poorly! Good-bye from Cantoro's." That was our sentiment exactly and a fitting farewell.
It was definitely worth the 2-hour each way drive and we will definitely return whenever we are in the area.
To Mario and Pat, what a wonderful experience. Five-star all around. Grazie and ciao!