When Angelo Tsipis (pronounced “sippus”) bought the Northwood Villa, the omens seemed to many eaters-out to be dubious. The Villa had been closed for seven years, the location is rather remote, and many regular customers had been loyal personal fans of Gen Dokurno, and only derivatively of her restaurants, the Villa and the Northwood Inn on Summit Street, both of which bore the stamp of her strong personality, a tough act to follow.
It may be premature to see a gradually brighter dawning of success, but it does look to me as if Mr. Tsipis and a growing segment of the restaurant's patrons have reason to feel confident about the latest chapter in the history of the old place, once the colorful Dixie Inn. With a confident instinct for the way the dining rooms had been, the new proprietor kept much of the earlier decor, and somehow the mood of the comfortable past.
It even extends to the little piece of warm cheese bread that was Mrs. Dukerno's signature amuse bouche. There's some little grace-note of seasoning missing, some secret carried to the grave, but the pleasure and the pleasant reminder are quite adequate.
Where Mr. Tsipis is a step ahead is in the kitchen rather than the dining room. He has an excellent palate and creativity to match.
Everything you expect on a good restaurant menu - steaks, scallops, lamb chops, and so forth - is there, and done well. But then there's “steak Siciliana,” a boneless 16-ounce New York strip prepared and served with an extraordinary sauce of the chef's own devising, according to the server. It's called ammoglio - both sauce and name are new to me. Rather than being a gravy-like dressing, it is as thin as a degreased broth, evoking a piquant flavor from a combination of garlic, olive oil, parsley, and lemon juice. It sets off the beef without contesting it for the guest's attention. Sicilian steak is almost worth a trip by itself.
It's out of place here, but to the same point, an imaginative chef is reflected in at least two yummy desserts: Grand Marnier mousse and a chocolate eclair.
Among the appetizers (the average price listed in the box does not include soups, which are very good; chicken noodle never saw the inside of a can!) is bruschetta, toasted bread brushed with garlic, butter, and oil and capped with tomato, onions, capers, basil, and cheese. This is not to be ordered lightly in an Italian restaurant; an order can be almost a meal.
I'm not a fan of frog legs, but big sauteed shrimp, gamberoni, are one of the most attractive of Angelo's specialties, and so is a plate of sauteed veal with a variety of fresh garnishings.
How does this kitchen perform with fish? A special one evening was a fillet of northern whitefish, fresh and white, ever so delicately cooked. Another special that I regretfully declined in favor of a plate of baked mostaccioli was frutti di mare, shrimp, scallops, and suchlike, served on a bed of pasta; at a neighboring table, one of the guests waxed eloquent in praise of it.
There is a menu for children 12 and under, judiciously balanced between pasta and various meats, not to forget the desserts.
Detroit Avenue becomes the Dixie Highway, State Rt. 125, in Michigan, and the Northwood Villa, not well marked along the highway, is on the east side, about three miles north of the state line. Parking, on the north side and behind the building, is more than adequate.
One more thing: Our note in the box reports wheelchair access. This access is up a short ramp on the highway side of the building, into the front bar, dining room, and rest rooms. The back dining room and bar are also accessible from this entry. The restaurant must be notified so as to open the door when required.