Ten Best: Experience San Morello

By: Karen Dybis | April 15, 2019
Interior of San Morello restaurant

Photo Credit: Nicole Franzen

Detroit’s Woodward Avenue, arguably as grand and historic a thoroughfare as the city itself, is an apt location for San Morello, an upscale restaurant within the fashionable and celebrated Shinola Hotel.

Known as the All-American Road, Woodward always had a unique blend of retail and restaurants, serving as the place to be for Detroiters for generations. After all, this is where renowned stores such as Hudson’s sat and where skyscrapers will be built in its place.

San Morello, which opened in late December, is part of the reimagining of a former hardware store turned fur shop turned sophisticated hotel. No detail was spared. During its grand opening, Dan Gilbert said he hoped the hotel and its restaurants would serve for newcomers as a symbol of Detroit and its hospitality.

Perhaps that is why the fine-dining space that specializes in Southern Italian blends so well into Woodward’s modern mix of eateries, fast fashion and the refurbished Kern’s Clock, the traditional meeting place of Detroiters old and young. It is an ecosystem of high-tech companies, up-and-coming artists and fresh concepts that have revived Woodward and its significance once again.

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San Morello had a buzz even before it opened. It was among the first announced food concepts from Noho Hospitality Group, a collection of food and beverage works by Chef Andrew Carmellini, Luke Ostrom and Josh Pickard. Carmellini, an award-winning chef, wanted to create an urban neighborhood restaurant inspired by the coastal towns of Sicily and Southern Italy.

Its location within the Shinola Hotel is a fitting location and an ideal match when it comes to the refinement of the food, interior and overall vibe, according to patrons who immediately jumped on reservations and booked San Morello to capacity for months after its opening.

The food is highlighted by wood-fired dishes, pizzas and house-made pasta. The focus follows national food trends with its reliance on local, seasonal ingredients to not only honor Chef Carmellini’s vision but the connection to Detroit’s growing reputation for farm-to-table restaurants.

Photo Credit: Nicole Franzen

“The menu is a delicate mix of classic dishes like slow roasted lamb shank and pan seared sea scallops with layers of complexity and notes of times gone by when restaurants used to focus on serving delicious food done well, rather than avant garde menus trying to be something they’re not,” said Megan Gunnell, a Grosse Pointe Park psychotherapist as well as Founder and Director of the Thriving Well Institute.

Diners have raved about the appetizers, including the roasted beet salad, sheep’s milk ricotta with hot honey and garlic as well as the tuna crudo. For the pasta, My Grandmother’s Ravioli and Black Shells Puttanesca are always mentioned. And pretty much everyone says there is nothing else in the city like the Bomboloni Di San Morello – traditional Italian cream-filled donuts with bittersweet chocolate.

The interior is just as sumptuous with its blends of caramel leathers, high ceilings, fresh patterns and warm blues. It’s a blend of old Detroit style with Shinola attention to quality. From the delicate fabric on the chairs to the signature Shinola leather bound check holder, Gunnell said every aspect transports you as a guest to an elevated experience that feels both contemporary and historic.

“It’s a beautiful space and you feel like you’re in New York,” which is appropriate given it is Chef Carmellini’s home territory and where he earned his stripes as a cook, said foodie and event specialist Nicole Gize.

The vibe inside is aspirational but appropriate for the Woodward Avenue address. After all, this is a roadway honored as one of the nation’s ten streets that changed America, according to PBS. Online reviews describe San Morello as chic, cosmopolitan and a place to see and be seen. For a superhighway that defines Detroit, San Morello seems a fitting addition to the Woodward Avenue scene.

Enter for a chance to win two tickets to dinner at San Morello courtesy of your Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers / Detroit Free Press Top 10 Takeover on April 23rd, 2019. Be sure to enter no later than Noon on April 18th for an opportunity to bypass the long reservation wait!