Lino's in Rochester Hills is polished to the core

Rochester Observer-Eccentric Newspaper
By Eleanor Heald Special Writer
Date: Thursday February 10, 2000

Lino's in Rochester Hills may be the best kept dining secret in the northern metro-Detroit suburbs. An unpretentious exterior includes a sign announcing Pasta-Seafood-Steaks. Inside, diners are transported to a ristorante outside Rome, that's polished to the core.

There's an expectation when an owner's name is on a restaurant. Owner Lino Borraccio delivers. He's at home in the environment he created. Booths and tables in warm wood tones with white table cloths and Burgundy napkins are accented by Italian tile floors and attractive wall art.

The main dining room, well-separated from the bar, has sufficient divisions to act as sound barriers. Group conversation at dinner is possible. The warm glow of a fireplace creates a cozy mood.

Lino's has become well known by word of mouth. And word of mouth sells quality. Lino's loyal clientele since 1988 includes top professionals and company CEOs.

"Twenty years ago I saw the potential of this location," admits Lino who emigrated from a village outside Rome in 1958. "Back then it was terrible. Today, it's the best comeback since Lazarus." It was well worth the wait.

"I stuck to my game plan. I do not serve pizza or ribs. My waiters are formally dressed. I waited for the area to develop and for clientele to recognize what I offer."

In addition to an outstanding menu, Lino's ace is that he recognizes diners and their comfort level. How can he not? He's about the floor, greeting regular diners at their table and introducing himself to anyone he does not recognize.

"Diners come here for the consistency in food quality and service," he insists. "If someone does not like the way their order was prepared, they should tell me. We'll make it right."

Given the experience in Lino's kitchen, complaints are few and far between. Executive Chef Andy Toth worked 32 years at Joe Muer's in Detroit. For the last eight, he's been at Lino's. Chefs de Cuisine Jim and Steve Vincent add to the kitchen team concept.

To get the full impact of menu offerings, start with Lino's Appetizer Platter for two or more people. It includes scallops, escargot, shrimp, calamari, olives and cheese. Antipasto Italiano, an assortment of prosciutto, salami, cheese and olives can hardly be dubbed a second choice.

Twenty pasta entrees include three with housemade pasta: Baked Lasagna (meat or vegetable layers), Ravioli and Gnocchi alla Gorgonzola. Imported Dicecco pasta is used for other dishes. Risotto includes chicken and mushrooms.

When offered as specials, don't hesitate, order Seafood Ravioli with lobster sauce or the Cioppino.

Sautéed Perch gets the diner's pick as most popular seafood entree. I recommend Shrimp Giardiniera, jumbo shrimp sautéed in white wine tomato sauce with red and green peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms.

Pollo Bolognese, baked boneless chicken breast stuffed with prosciutto and fontina cheese is numero uno among poultry entrees.

Veal Giuliana, veal medallions sautéed with red and green peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes and vodka, tops the veal entrees. When offered as a special, don't miss the very Roman-style Saltimbocca.

While Lino's chefs make all the mouth-watering main dishes, it's Lino's wife Elvira who makes the authentic Tiramisu for dessert. It's so popular, she makes it twice daily.

Most Tiramisu served in Italian restaurants follows the Sicilian tradition and is made more like a cake. Using the influences of Rome, Elvira's Tiramisu, served in a tall wine glass, has a layer of lady fingers soaked in espresso and Frangelico, topped with fluffy egg whites and a sprinkling of cocoa. A light ending to cap off a great meal.

Lino's

Where: 50 West Tienken (at Rochester Road), Rochester Hills (248) 652-9002.
Open: Monday-Saturday 5-10 p.m. Sunday 4-9 p.m.
Menu: Italian dishes based on the culinary traditions of Rome presented in an adult environment.
Cost: Entrees $17-26 served with dinner salad, potato, seasonal vegetables and a fresh-baked bread basket.
Reservations: advised on weekends
Credit cards: all major.
Details: Kid's menu for ages 12 and under. Full liquor license. Smoking in bar area seating 35. No cigars or pipes. Lower-level banquet room seating 100.

Lino's uncorked

  • 1996 Batasiolo Dolcetto d'Alba with Baked Lasagna
  • 1998 Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay with Shrimp Giardiniera
  • 1996 Antinori Peppoli Chianti Classico with Veal alla Giuliana
  • A reserve wine list is available upon request.

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    Eleanor Heald is a Troy resident who writes about dining, food and wine for the Observer &
    Eccentric Newspapers. To leave her a voice mail message, dial (734) 953-2047, mailbox 1864.