Dave Steinke and partner Tim Springstead of Nemo’s Bar & Grill have enjoyed a bona fide hit with Ottava Via since opening in July 2013. Both businesses on Michigan Avenue at Eighth Street aren’t far from the former fabled Tiger Stadium on Michigan at Trumbull.
My friend Andrea raved about Ottava Via so often that we finally met for lunch there with our friend, Diane. Tuscan Braised Short Rib was Diane’s choice, an entree she’d enjoyed earlier. The ribs topped with onion frites “rest” on a bed of creamy, mascarpone polenta.
Andrea and I split three dishes — I loved them all. The Melted Pecorino Cheese Plate is a small cast-iron pan of fragrant, warm cheese that’s accompanied by crusty house-made Italian bread, very thin pear slices and spiced truffle honey. Oh, baby!
I’m always up for roasted beet salads. The Ottava Via version also offers candied walnuts, feta and goat cheese “whip,” Granny Smith apples and arugula frisee. The flavors mix beautifully. Our Margherita pizza featured house-made mozzarella, tomato sauce and a fresh sweet basil leaf on every slice.
Executive Chef Ariel Millan’s menu includes “some seasonal items, but we do keep favorite items the same,” said Stephanie Fronrath, a restaurant manager. Besides short ribs, two other standouts are Truffle Butter Pasta and “phenomenal” Branzino.
The latter dish is pan-seared, whole Mediterranean seabass topped with olive oil capers and Calabrian chilies, alongside Tuscan-style potatoes.
I returned to Ottava Via with my husband and three other couples on a Saturday night last month. Despite best efforts, I could not secure the round table for eight I had desired. The noise level bothered us in this uncarpeted restaurant-bar with high ceilings.
We were a tough crowd. Mike and Steve didn’t care for their Farmhouse Chicken. Peggy and Alan weren’t impressed with Ragout Alla Bolognese. Debbie mostly liked her Salsiccia pizza, in spite of the peppers. Peter complained about the egg on his Rucolina pizza.
Only Donna and I were happy. She had the Melted Pecorino Cheese Plate. We both liked Veal Popette, veal meatballs in a mushroom Marsala sauce. My garlic shrimp and a chopped salad that included finocchiona salami and aged Provolone cheese were both very good. The Tuscany bean soup with fresh spinach also satisfied.
Steinke designed the charming decor in this former Dime Bank. There is a brick wall and others faux-painted. Local artist Jerome Feretti created a “Diego and Frida” mural for the separate dining room. Multiple violins on display are a tribute to Steinke’s composer daughter.
Ottava Via boasts a free parking lot. When the weather improves, guests on the patio can play bocce ball.
1400 Michigan Ave.
Detroit, MI 48216
$$½ out of $$$$$