ADRIAN -- The Lenawee County seat is doing plenty to attract revelers to the city's downtown with an active arts community, a farmers' market, First Fridays, and the inaugural Blues & Brews Festival in October.
All of that should be commended, and could even serve as a model for similarly sized cities throughout southeast Michigan and northwest Ohio, and perhaps even Toledo.
High-quality restaurants such as Sauce Italian Grill & Pub are doing their part as well, attracting customers with stone-oven pizzas and pastas made in-house.
We first stopped in on a busy Friday night and had to wait almost an hour for a table in the dining room. But that was OK because we soon found room at the spacious bar and enjoyed ourselves as the environment bordered on boisterous.
The dining room was quieter with an open view of the kitchen, and basil and other herbs growing in pots on the windowsills.
We were told by our waitress that we ordered two of her favorites -- Pisano pizza ($12) and Lexi's cheese ravioli ($10).
The gorgeous pizza was covered with pepperoni, sopressata, Italian sausage, mozzarella, fresh basil, and a savory red sauce. The sweet basil complemented the spicy meats and tomatoey sauce, which wasn't too heavy, thanks to the thin, hand-tossed crust.
The freshly made ravioli was filled with cheese and topped with an amazing creamy blush sauce, and even though the meal was loaded with carbs, we couldn't help but grab some of the bread to soak up every drop of sauce on the plate.
The Bruschetta ($7) was a refreshingly light appetizer -- served with large chunks of tomatoes, gooey mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil on six slices of fresh Italian bread.
We visited again, this time on a weeknight, and were seated right away. Our service was exemplary, and our waitress, Desiree, was attentive, courteous, and accommodating.
If you like your lasagna cheesy, you'll love Grandma Meri's ($10). A blend of Ricotta, Romano, and mozzarella cheeses overwhelm the noodles and ground beef, but get along well with the pomodoro and alfredo sauces.
The chicken pesto sandwich ($8) -- grilled chicken, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella, and a pesto spread -- was served on chewy and soft ciabatta bread along with thick french fries.
The sauteed mushrooms on the veal marsala ($16) were outstanding and matched the delicate taste and tender texture of the veal. The accompanying blanched green beans were bright and crunchy, but the potatoes were a little overdone.
The portabella sandwich ($7) is a nice option for vegetarians, with roasted red peppers adding a robust tone to the beefy mushrooms, spinach, and red salsa on ciabatta bread.
The calamari and shrimp Pepe appetizer was seasoned well with a light breading, fried until crispy, and tossed in a lemon butter sauce. There was a lot of of calamari with surprisingly just three shrimp and it was a tad expensive at $12.
Don't walk away without dessert because you won't want to miss Gavin Marcello's favorite cannoli ($3), one of the creamiest and crunchiest we've eaten.
And just like visiting downtown Adrian, you won't regret giving it a try.
Contact Bill of Fare at email@example.com.
Sauce Italian Grill & Pub ****
Address: 149 N. Main St., Adrian
Hours: Monday through Wednesday 4 to 10 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday 4 p.m. to midnight; reservations are not accepted.
Wheelchair access: Yes
Average price: $$
Credit Cards: AE, Dis, MC, V
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Try the stone-oven pizza.