Dining Around The D
Sunny Palaj was 16 when he started working as a busboy at Alfoccino, an Italian restaurant then located in Rochester Hills.
“I’ve done all the restaurant jobs, up through the line,” said Palaj, now 41.
Today, he’s at the top of the ladder as owner of Alfoccino Ristorante Auburn Hills. Formerly a partner, he purchased the business on North Opdyke Road in December 2017.
While he obviously knows his way around a kitchen, Palaj likes best that “I’m always in contact with guests.”
Another Alfoccino, with a different owner, closed on Mother’s Day in Farmington Hills. But Palaj’s Alfoccino is still going strong, 15 years after locating to Auburn Hills.
Friends and I dined there recently and had a great experience, starting with our capable server Nick, formerly of Montenegro.
The carpeted dining room is distinguished by its handsome woodwork, including crown moldings. Vintage Italian film and advertising posters decorate sand-colored walls. Several spots with upright greenery add to the ambiance.
At back, a large banquet area can be divided as needed. Overall capacity at Alfoccino is “a couple hundred,” Palaj said.
Dominating the dining room is a large, well-stocked bar, featuring international wines. The bar’s happy hour, 3-6:30 weekdays, offers half-off selected appetizers.
Alfoccino’s authentic Italian cuisine includes house-made salad dressings and sauces. A popular appetizer is Seafood Portabella, with crab and shrimp. Other categories include salads, sandwiches, burgers and pizza.
House specialties, such as homemade lasagna, are highlighted in yellow boxes on the menu. Dinners come with garlic rolls and “bottomless” garden salad. Add a few chickpeas, and I’d be perfectly satisfied.
Chicken Picatta is delightful and the most-ordered entree, Palaj said. Lightly battered white chicken breast fillets are sautéed in white wine, garlic, lemon, parsley and mushrooms. Maureen and I shared this dish and also Perch Diane: sautéed yellow Lake Perch topped with artichoke hearts, diced tomatoes and lemon-wine sauce.
Marni’s Eggplant Parmigiana was so good, consisting of eggplant slices dipped in breadcrumbs and fried, then layered with cheese and tomato sauce. The Lemon Dill Salmon, Carol’s entrée, was crusty and scrumptious.
Pollo Tortollini, a specialty, has tri-colored noodles stuffed with ricotta cheese, chicken strips and the signature Palomina sauce — combining seasoned marinara and Alfredo sauces.
Alfoccino’s grilled 8-ounce filet mignon sounds appealing. Served over a sautéed wheel of eggplant, it’s topped with Gorgonzola cheese and portabella mushrooms, and drizzled with zip sauce. The ribs fall off the bone after more than four hours of slow cooking.
For dessert, we made short work of our tiramisu. The layered Italian cake features ladyfinger cookies, espresso, Mascarpone cheese, eggs, sugar, Marsala wine, rum and cocoa powder.
2225 N. Opdyke Road
Auburn Hills, MI 48326
$$$ out of $$$$$
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