DETROIT: Hidden Gems

24 Feb

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Nestled away on Woodward near the Palmer Woods neighborhood is one of Detroit’s hidden gems, La Dolce Vita. Serving superb Italian cuisine, the building goes unnoticed by most passersby, but don’t be fooled, the restaurants excellent reputation keeps the place packed most of the time. We are having an early dinner on Friday evening, I made a reservation in advance. We turn in behind the building and are greeted by a valet, Kris hands him a $5 dollar bill, we head inside as the Jeep is whisked away. The warmth of the building is soothing, the outdoor temperature is hovering at 5 degrees. The host takes us to our table, large chandeliers light the patio-looking room, archways separate the dining area from the bar. Everything on the menu sounds delicious, we make our selections and nibble on fresh-baked bread. Windows overlook the garden area, the snow is piled high, in the summer there isn’t a prettier place in the city to have a meal than in their courtyard. Service is impeccable, our glasses are never empty and empty dishes are cleared quickly. Kris is having the Petto Di Pollo Alla Sorrentina; sauteed chicken breast, roasted eggplant, mozzarella and a veal-demi marinara sauce to die for. Truly outstanding, the chicken is so tender, no knife is needed. I ordered the Gnocchi Alla Bava, being a fan of both pasta and potatoes, I cannot resist. Without a doubt this is the best gnocchi I have ever had; tender pillows of heavenly deliciousness smothered in a six cheese cream sauce, I found myself grinning with every bite. We definitely have to come here more often!

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We have tickets to see the UDM Theatre Company perform Somebody/Nobody by Jane Martin at the Marygrove Theatre; this is the second hidden gem of the evening. In the early 1970’s the U of D Theatre Company and Marygrove consolidated their Fine and Performing Arts departments, they updated the existing theatre by extending the stage to accommodate larger productions. First, let’s talk about the building. Marygrove is an independent, Catholic, Liberal Arts College. The Liberal Arts Building, designed by Oscar D Bohlen, is a soaring Tudor Gothic structure that was built in 1927 of Bedford stone. The building contains classrooms, offices, studios, a library, bookstore, theatre and Sacred Heart Chapel. It is filled with traditional Gothic features such as pointed arches, ribbed vaults, high ceilings, carved decoration, corbels, capitals, tranceried windows…..ah, the beauty of it all!

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We have time to wander before the play begins; Tavernelle Rose marble runs from floor to ceiling in the main lobby, long arched corridors with gray Missouri marble floors lead us past classrooms. Brass lettering hangs on classroom doors identifying each subject, doorknobs and hardware are detailed, ornate and original as are the light fixtures. The chapel doors are open, we quietly amble in. Chandeliers line each side of the chapel, the ceiling of wood beams brings warmth to the neutral colored space. The altar, inset under another Gothic arch is elaborate, highly detailed, amazing. Candles flicker in glass containers giving the room a sense of peace. On the walk to the theatre we pass hand-carved Carrara marble statues tucked into niches in the wall, there are 8 throughout the building. Patterns repeat throughout the interior in stone, wood, plaster bronze and wrought iron; French fleur-de-lis, Oak leaves, acorns, harp, laurel wreath and the Cross, little has changed in the building over the last 87 years. It smells like school to me, books, paper…. posters are hung on walls, the heels of my shoes make clicking sounds as we walk.

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Inside the theatre we are shown to our seats, renovated in 2002 it radiates simple elegance. Classically styled with a proscenium stage and sprung floor it has everything budding thespians could want; dressing rooms, green room, stage manager room, rehearsal studio and box office. Wood panels are dark, the ceiling a soothing shade of blue, bare light bulbs glow in detailed metal fixtures, all very quaint. The lights are dimmed and the show begins, set in an L A apartment, we immediately meet the lead character Loli; a country girl looking for fame in the big city. Quickly, Sheena appears, a Hollywood starlet grown tired of the nonsense that comes with being a celebrity. Each longing for the other’s life, they form a unique friendship. Along the way we are introduced to an agent named Galaxy, a stalker and cousin Joe Don; the play has really funny moments and some hilarious one-liners. We love coming to this theatre, simple to get to, easy parking and beautiful, intimate surroundings.

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One Response to “DETROIT: Hidden Gems”

  1. Anne McGraw-Mueller February 25, 2014 at 1:31 am #

    We love La Dolce Vita, we go there at least five times a year for family celebrations. But my Aunt and I LOVE to take her sweet little friends there as a surprise lunch and eat outside on the patio. They love it.

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