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Posted on Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 1:18 p.m.

Leone's Bistro on Washtenaw in Ypsilanti Township closes after 15 months

By Lizzy Alfs

Ralph Leone, the owner of Leone’s Bistro on Washtenaw Avenue, closed his Ypsilanti Township restaurant this week after struggling to turn a profit, real estate agents confirmed today.

The Italian-themed bistro, which opened in September 2010 in the former Cottage Inn Cafe space, stopped serving lunches a few months ago and officially closed its doors this week.

A listing for the building also went up with Jim Chaconas and Brendan Cavender of Colliers International, who are marketing the 3,941-square-foot space as a “turn-key restaurant.” It’s listed for an annual $12 per square foot.


Ralph Leone, owner of Leone's Bistro, closed his Ypsilanti Township restaurant this week.

Paula Gardner |

Leone could not be reached for comment and the restaurant was empty when visited on Monday.

The problem with Leone’s, Cavender said, was the prices were too high for the market.

“It’s unfortunate,” he said. “He had a great concept. But he had a higher end product and the Washtenaw corridor east of US-23 is more fast food and cheaper priced menus. He was a little high for the market out there.”

When Leone’s Bistro opened last year, the plan was to offer over 300 wines and 30 craft beers. Some menu items were on the higher end, with meat entrees ranging from $17 to $34. Pastas were in the $9 to $15 range.

Leone created the sauces, lobster salad dressing and many of the soups. The pasta was homemade and many of the menu items were family recipes, Leone told in 2010. He opened the restaurant with his son, Greg.

Because the space was vacant for years after the Cottage Inn Cafe closed, Cavender said Leone invested in various renovations to convert the building last year, which makes the space ready for a new operator.

“The building was completely updated,” he said. “Everything is brand new. There’s a granite bar, all new carpet and a new roof. It has all the kitchen equipment in there and everything down to forks and knives.”

He said the ideal operator would be a family restaurant or a small sports bar with “fast and casual” food.

“You need to have a good price point and good products,” he said. “Something fun where families can bring kids.”

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at



Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 10:20 p.m.

Leone's opened before they were really prepared to give customers the wonderful experience that so many other people are commenting on here today. I think that opening before they were ready was a huge mistake . We went there just a day or so after they opened. They still couldn't serve liquor. The staff was just learning and the service was very awkward and slow. The salmon and pasta dish that I ordered that night arrived cold and watery. It was such a bad experience for us that we never went back.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 10:11 p.m.

It's too bad that this "Mom & Pop" restaurant went out of business. It would be a sad event if some corporate chain/franchise food crap fest opened in it's place. This is what is wrong with America. Consumers are just too stupid to shop at the Mom & Pop shops (restaurant or otherwise). The sheeple will line up for a nacho bell grande at taco bell or whatever junk olive garden sells, but they won't shop at the places owned by their own neighbors. Maybe Starbucks should open in the building or how about a macdonalds?


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 6:25 p.m.

Broham thought he was in downtown A2 on Main street and not in Ypsi on Washtenaw and charged accordingly, too bad sounds like it could have been good food.

Christine Moellering

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 4:10 p.m.

It was a good place to eat. We went about 3 times and we don't eat out often. You could tell it was opened but they could have done a better job letting people know they existed. The food was good, the service was very slow but it was freshly cooked and prepared. It was clean and I enjoyed it but didn't LOVE it. I miss Cady's in Depot Town and Cottage Inn Cafe, Don Carlos and the little tex mex place near Leone's. PIta Pita is very good and the service is great, however it could be a little cleaner. WE are starved for good locally owned places down on the Ypsi end of Washtenaw. Hope someone else takes a chance. I agree, Knight's would be GREAT!


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 3:37 p.m.

There are some of us out here east of Carpenter Road that can afford to go to a decent restaurant for dinner. We gave this place a try. The food was not good. The service was poor. I drive by there everyday and it looked like the place had closed long ago. We never heard anything about it good or bad and after that one bad experience, we didn't go back.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 2:47 p.m.

seems to me if you don't cater to the market around you you will lose almost every time. so be it.

Monica R-W

Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 7:10 a.m.

Sorry it didn't work out for this owner. Never ate there but the first thing I would say killed this business is lack of advertising. I never heard about any specials Leone's were offering. Price point, yes...probably too high in the current climate. Most families want a dinner for two to be no more than $35.00 total. If he reviewed some of the larger chains, they frequency offer in the week $9.99 or $12.99 specials. With a pop, $2.10-2.50 per person and tax....most couples are still under $35.00, minus the tip. Since I never pardoned the restaurant, I can't say anything about the service. Looking at the comments on this page, it was in-between good and horrible....with fair, in-between. With the menu prices, to set a standard, service should have been excellent over 80% of the time. 1 person tell 10 people about a good experience. 1 person tells 50 people about a bad food experience. Finally, start up food service businesses has high failure rates....well over 60%. Looking at this, a business plan for a restaurant should be reviewed often and changed if necessary, for profitability. Sorry for this owners' end result.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 4:03 a.m.

Smokehouse is ok as it is now, to big of a menu though. This factor kills a lot of spaces. Run goodf specials and a serve few things that are very good, not a lot of things ok. Anybody can pur a beer, making a mixed drink only takes an affection for them. Oh, and don't make me wait more than 5 minutes to get my tab and pay it, especially if I have my kids with me.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 3:57 a.m.

I feel bad for the guy but I heard they had limited hours, i think they didn't open for the day till 5pm. And it just always looked deserted.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 3:20 a.m.

remember Hercs on Washtenaw where the bbq Blues(?) is now ..Best fresh breadstick things ever and the bar side had a good atmosphere


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 2:36 a.m.

That whole Washtenaw strip between EMU to the Arborland area is the kiss of death to food and other businesses these days. Not even the college priced places can stay open. It's sad.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:11 p.m.

Pita Pita has recently expanded and serves fantastic food, so my hunch is that they're doing well as well. La Casita, a great traditional Mexican restaurant, is hidden away behind the Subway in that area and still seems to have a regular flow of customers whenever I'm there. I'm sure in both cases the location hinders more than helps, though if one has good food, good service, and good prices it appears possible to overcome that negative.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 3:27 a.m.

Tiptum and Temptations prove you wrong. And, they are not priced for budgets.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 12:21 a.m.

I agree that the old Cottage Inn Cafe was an excellent restaurant for this location. I'm sorry that it closed. As for Leone's, I refused to try it because their regular menu offered braised rabbit. Now I'm not a vegetarian, but sorry, I have two very wonderful, affectionate and intelligent pet rabbits. And with all of the different types of meats available out there, I just don't believe that a restaurant needs to resort to serving rabbit! Ciao, Mr. Leone!


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 4:03 p.m.

A good German knows his Hasenpfeffer if it is cooked well.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 3:26 a.m.

I also have owned rabbits, many and over many years. However, I still can enjoy a good rabbit, if well prepared.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:17 a.m.

Mr. Leone, don't listen to these hypocrits who eat beef but judge you for serving rabbit! Had I known you served rabbit, I would have been your #1 customer. I wish you had a sign out front letting me know that your building wasn't vaccant. I would have eaten a rabbit 10 days a month.


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 11:37 p.m.

The Mongolian on Michigan closed just shy of a year. Great food, their prices were a little pricey though. Sad to see another restaurant go by the way side. I heard it takes a year to get the clients and another to turn a profit. Good luck for the next restaurant.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 4:01 p.m.

That would not surprise me. But sad to hear. They had business but guess it goes with the same reason Bombedills closed as well. Didn't pay the bills and the tax man came in and said pay up or else. This name can never be used unless you want to pay those taxes that has a lien on.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:01 p.m.

Wasn't the closure of the Mongolian place on Michigan Ave less an issue of lack of clientele, and more an issue of the owner not paying utilities for a significant amount of time? My understanding was that the Mongolian place, Savoy, and Pub 13 all closed in parallel for that reason.

Joyce Williams

Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 11:23 p.m.

I visited with a friend for my birthday recently and was very pleasantly surprised. They served some of the best Italian food I've tasted in a long time--sauces were excellent. Wonderful wine list. So sad they didn't make it. This area needs a traditional local family-owned Italian restaurant, NOT another corporate pseudo-Italian Olive Garden!


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 11:11 p.m.

Not a suprise to me that this place would close. I was there twice. Both times, lousy food. Prices too high. The decor looked like a grandma's parlor room from a house in 1901. My first visit was the worst. The server was so lame, his description of every menu item was that it was "reeeeally, reeeeally, reeeeally good". My meal was not what I ordered and when the owner came out to say hi to the tables, he asked me how I liked my meal & when I told him that it wasn't what I had ordered, he said, "oh, well the dish you ordered was better than the one you were served so come back and try it next time". What the ****? He didn't even offer to replace it with the correct order. Maybe he was mad because the grease stains all over his dirty polo shirt had soaked through to his cigarettes in his pocket and ruined the whole pack. After waiting 45 minutes for this, our dinning experience had been so bad, we just ate the crappy food and laughed at the whole comedy routine we seemed to be trapped in. Bring back the Cottage Inn Cafe circa 2002!!!!!!!! Better than the Original Downtown A2 restaurant.


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 9:33 p.m.

I wish Olive Garden would open in this space. Ann Arbor can certainly use another Olive Garden location. There are always long lines at the restaurant near Briarwood. We would go there more often if the wait weren't so long.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 3:59 p.m.

We had a Ponderosa and it closed years ago. I liked having a restaurant like that near us so our child could pick and choose what they wanted. But the best place right now and wish they would build here is Golden Corral. They are centrally located in the Detroit area and one in Cincinnati. Much much better then Old Country any day of the week. Now that I would go for. If you haven't tried one? Do it.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 11:37 a.m.

I really hope this is a joke post. Wishing that more mediocre chain restaurants would open is horrible. Why not wish for a Ponderosa or Waffle House while you're at it?


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 4:13 a.m.

Olive Garden? I suppose you miss Chi-Chi's too.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:13 a.m.

Why would you want another Olive Garden? You had a chance at desent Italian food...they closed. Now you want a national chain pretend Italian garbage served to you...? I'd rather Ann Arbor and surrounding area not have all the same places as evrey highway-stop town. I'll bet you drin at Starbucks too. Horrible.


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 11:37 p.m.

Now that I would go for. Love the Olive Garden. Not sure if the denizens would be open to it though.


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 9:14 p.m.

I took a sister-in-law there for dinner in the fall of last year and neither of us was impressed, particularly given the cost. I had considered returning in the late spring of this year but saw that they had 12 Health Dept. violations (4 critical) in late April which made the decision for me to skip it. They appeared to clean up their act, though, as they had 4 violations in late October, none critical. Too late.


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 9:04 p.m.

I just figured out what was/is wrong ...the name LOENE ...All the coney ilands are called leon.loen coney iland ..sorry for that but name change ..maybe Bistro Leo ...Bistr Italia ..


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 9:02 p.m.

Wow I didnot SEE a sign that there was/is an italian resteraunt ..since the mediterian closedon huron strret /We need a good upscale italian resteraunt here ....all the fastfood .....too much . we need good food .Homecooking or the three brothers from poland.hamtrak/canton...

Jim Toy

Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 8:20 p.m.

I'm sorry to see this news. The few times that I was able to get to Leone's, I found the food to be excellent - the best Italian-style food I've had in Ann Arbor throughout four decades.


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 8:10 p.m.

Well, it's a cryin' shame for this was a true gem of a restaurant. Wonderful meals, prepared in a unique and most delicious manner, presented with style, and with exceptional choices. The wine list was second to absolutely none. We were in the habit of going every month. It will be a void difficult to fill. Too bad funding couldn't continue for it while the word got out. Nonetheless, I tip my hat to a truly great restaurant that I do hope reopens somewhere close by, very soon! Bravo


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 8:06 p.m.

It's unfortunate that a business of quality couldn't make it over there, as a business owner I can see how much money this man probably lost on his investment. I didn't even know he was there and I would have liked to have tried it.


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 7:05 p.m.

Come on Knight's, this would be a great spot for your third location.


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 10:01 p.m.

@ Hans, It is a start.

Hans Masing

Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 8:42 p.m.

4000 sq ft isn't nearly enough, fwiw...


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 7:02 p.m.

I had no idea it existed in the first place. I was so used to this building being closed I stopped even looking at it. They should have put out a great big sign "GRAND OPENING", then gave a list of specially priced items for people can sample their products. They also should have advertised with these items where ever they could. No one is going to check out a restaurant if they haven't a clue if they are there. Believe me, when there is 45 minutes or more waiting at just about every decent eatery, this place would have too. They were victims of their own demise.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 1:08 a.m.

This is a much more accurate response than Branden Cavender's nonsense. I had no idea they were even there! Had I known, I definitely would have tried it out...had I only known. Alright, not to be so hard on Brandon; that area is pretty crappy though. Was Leon's near the Indian joint, Temptations? Because that place is amazing...don't try ordering dessert though, they're just on the menu for show.


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 6:55 p.m.

I didn't realize it had reopened as something else.


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 6:54 p.m.

The location is a college town. why offer high price items to college students who cannot afford it. I went there after opening, it was horrible. High price, cold food, and slow service. Never went back there again. need something that will cater to the college town students.


Wed, Dec 14, 2011 : 6:33 p.m.

@Forever27, Ann Arbor is divided in two. Main St isn't part of the campus like State street. Ann Arbor west is for the older generation and Ann Arbor east is geared toward the college kids like 5 guys burger and fries.


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 8:52 p.m.

I'd say it's less of a product of it being in a college town (think main street in ann arbor) and more of its location relative to washtenaw and golfside road. That area isn't the best off economically (not because they're students), so the potential patrons couldn't afford to eat at this location.


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 7:05 p.m.

I had a pretty poor experience in my visit there and never gave them a second chance.


Tue, Dec 13, 2011 : 6:35 p.m.

would have been a nice restaurant in a different location. This seems to be the pattern for the area. I wonder if the massive development plans for just up the road on the other side of US-23 will suffer the same fate, only on a much larger scale. You can develop an area all you want, but if the customer base isn't there for that line of product, you can't succeed.