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Posted on Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 5:09 a.m.

Leone's Bistro steps up to the plate as top-notch Italian dining destination

By Julie Halpert


Cindy Calfin of Ypsilanti enjoys a bowl of vegetable soup for lunch at Leone's Bistro.

Melanie Maxwell |

Many readers have wished over the years for more first-rate, reasonably priced, Italian options in the Ann Arbor area — the kind of place you can count on for a hearty plate of spaghetti or a comforting dish of veal piccata. I am pleased to report that such a restaurant is now here. Leone's Bistro, which opened in September, satisfies the craving for traditional Italian food, offered at reasonable prices. And you can comfortably bring your family along.

Owner Greg Leone has transformed the long-vacant space that once housed the Cottage Inn Café. Though he left the structural interior essentially intact, he gave this once dismal-looking environment a big face-lift, with warm, burgundy flowered carpet, dark green walls and roomy and comfortable tables. It has a nostalgic feel reminiscent of the 1940s and 1950s. On our first visit, a piano player accompanied diners with classic songs; the second time, Frank Sinatra and show tunes bellowed from the speakers.

Leone's has a huge menu of Italian pastas, as well as fish, chicken, beef and seafood. While there are some pricey entrees, like the $39 Kobe steak (which we didn't allow my son to order), there are many pasta dishes in the $14 range. For vegetarian diners, pasta choices abound.

We got a warm start to our meal with the straccetella soup, made with a chicken broth along with spinach and egg. A fusion of Jewish chicken soup and Asian egg drop soup, it was a wonderful melding of flavors. The tomato bisque was thick, hearty and creamy, as was the cream of cauliflower, though that could have used more salt. Even basic salads didn't disappoint. The Caesar had wonderful dressing along with crunchy homemade croutons. Both the blue cheese and lobster dressings are prepared in house, and they're simply delicious.

For many dishes here, garlic is the featured ingredient. There was just the right amount in the outstanding shrimp Giusepi, where a lemon butter sauce bathed delicious shrimp. But it was applied a bit too heavy in the pasta Maria, a bland assortment of vegetables, and in the veal piccata. With a bit less garlic, this dish of tender pieces of meat would have tasted even better.

The fried chicken wings appetizer is more like a fried chicken main course. The gigantic chicken wings had an abundance of meat and very little fat, so they weren't greasy. There was a similarly generous portion of the fried eggplant, another standout.


Leone's Bistro
2789 Washtenaw Avenue
Leone's Bistro in restaurant guide

  • Hours: Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 4:30 p.m.-10 p.m.
  • Plastic: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover.
  • Liquor: Yes.
  • Prices: Moderate. Pastas range from $8.99 to $15; most meat entrees range from $17 to $33.99.
  • Value: Very good.
  • Noise Level: Quiet.

Leone's shines with the Italian basics. The spaghetti was heaped with a wonderful marinara sauce. And I enjoyed the tomato sauce in the homemade lasagna, a dense, rich dish accented with meat. With a thick, crunchy homemade crust, great tomato sauce and an ample amount of cheese, the pizza was as good as any entrée on the menu.

The only disappointment was a dish that we did not order. My husband requested a special, the "bronzini" fish, which sounded interesting. But our server brought us the steelhead instead. After we alerted him to the error, he asked if we wanted a complimentary soda to compensate for the error, an odd suggestion when you get the entrée wrong. The fish was bland and uninteresting.

For dessert, four scoops of gelato were beautifully placed in a parfait glass. I enjoyed this, but it resembled ice milk, lacking the dense, creamy texture of quality gelato. The tiramisu was wonderful, adorned with two Italian biscuits.

Our servers on both visits seemed inexperienced and a bit tentative, eager to please, but not quite knowledgeable on the menu items. Though it took a half-hour for our appetizers to be delivered on the second visit, the rest of our meal arrived quickly.

The many high quality items at Leone's, along with its graceful ambience and generally rapid service, offer it much potential. It fits the bill for that Italian restaurant many have desired.

Julie Halpert reviews restaurants for



Fri, Nov 12, 2010 : 12:02 p.m.

I went with a couple of coworkers for lunch. They both ordered the lasagna and I ordered the meatball sub. It was all so bland-virtually tasteless. No flavor of garlic, onion or tomato could be found in even the tomato sauce. How can tomato sauce not have a tomato flavor? A rogue anise seed was all that offered a hint of any kind of flavor. We have never had Italian food that was tasteless. We made mention of this to our server and she replied that she thought everything was very flavorful. Really? Not one of us knew what we were talking about? The pea soup was outstanding but at $4 a cup (which was literally about 4 tablespoons full) it was not worth it. We left wishing we had eaten Olive Garden lasagna and Subway meatball sub-if that tells you anything. I spent 25 years in the restaurant/bar industry and understand bad visits can happen. I am sure I will give it another try, but not for a while. Give them a chance to work out all of their issues.


Wed, Nov 10, 2010 : 1:50 a.m.

I also had a terrible meal and even worse service there. The server made suggestions but when I asked 'why' all he could say was because he tasted it ant it was 'real, real good'. The lasagna was bland and when I ordered a round crust specialty pizza, the server brought a deep dish. They were out of a few toppings so they substituted for other stuff without asking me. When the owner/chef came out to introduce himself, he said that I should have tried a round specialty pizza on the menu. When I told him that was what I ordered but recieved something else, he didn't do anything about it. All he talked about was the that he had owned a restaurant in Brighton that was known as having the largest wine list in Michigan. What does that have to do with my order? This place may have potential but it doesn't make sense to compete with Paesano's who does things right. I miss the old Cottae Inn Cafe @2002.


Sat, Nov 6, 2010 : 1:03 p.m.

Worst service I've ever had at a restaurant. Took 2 hours for the entire dinner and the staff was clueless. Also they charge for a basket of bread. If they are cutting corners on bread what else are they cutting corners on?


Sat, Nov 6, 2010 : 10:47 a.m.

Oh to add my suggestion of what we ate also, The tortellini is SO SO GOOD, the shrimp guiseppe, tenderloin with MI cherries and the chicken vesuvio ALL were perfect!! We wish you all the luck an will support your place alot!! Also met the owner Greg Leone, although he cant be anymore than in his mid to late 20's he was so nice to us


Sat, Nov 6, 2010 : 10:39 a.m.

Wow!! I have to say These reviews of what people say are crazy, sounds like alot of Paesanos people saying things.. my suggestion would be to try it urself.. I Myself have been to Paesanos a few times an everytime the food is just so so.. But this is about Leone's an i must say there wine list is best I have EVER seen!! was there once b4 food was great wasnt happy with server but saw this article in paper so we went back last night an the place was packed and i have to say the food again was AMAZING!!!! servers were so much better now that they have been open a couple months, This is our new favorite place!!


Fri, Nov 5, 2010 : 6:19 p.m.

I agree with bedrog~~Paesano's offers well-prepared Italian dishes in an elegant environment. And not too pricey!

Ann Stofflet

Fri, Nov 5, 2010 : 11:54 a.m.

Giovanni's is fantastic! Definitely check it out.


Fri, Nov 5, 2010 : 8:15 a.m.

@Oscsar, I hadn't heard that. I hadn't been there for a few years, but it was a real charming place and had excellent food. Someone told me there is a place in SW Detroit, Giovanni's, that I should try out too.


Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 7:47 p.m.

once again the reviewer tells us about two or three dishes.If its a vast menu let us know whats on it.Your reviewing the place so we can decide to go there or not.Take three or four people that all have different things and visit a couple different times.I dont know much more about the place than before I read the review.What does their pizza taste like?What style is it?Is it brick oven?Just the basic things to know you leave out.Again

Oscar Lavista

Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 5:24 p.m.

@treetowncartel: I'm pretty sure Little Italy in N'ville has been closed for a while - a year or so now - because of a fire. So Leone's it is!

Ann Stofflet

Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 1:36 p.m.

We have not tried this place, yet, but I am not so sure chicken wings really belong on an "Italian" restaurant menu - that is, unless it's Cottage Inn. It baffles me that restaurants who are supposedly serving ethnic food feel compelled to add items that you can get at the Coney Island down the street. Last time we were at Paesano's, it was great, but definitely not in the lower price range. And Argiero's call pasta "noodles" so - not authentic in my book. It would be great if someone would open an authentic and casual Italian deli type place that made real, authentic Italian food without all the frills, fancy wine lists and high prices. Keep it authentic and simple with a small menu (no chicken wings) and it could easily become a destination restaurant for the area.

Sally Goldberg

Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 9:49 a.m.

Four of us ate at Leonie's in late September. We were quite excited to try the food as their wine list is really interesting and very fairly priced. We really wanted this to be a new favorite place. However, after a lengthy wait we were told that they were out of at least four of the things were ordered (both appetizers and entrees). The food that finally did arrive was bland and disappointing. The bread was supermarket white bread quality - no excuse with such good bread available in the area. The wait staff were new and very inexperienced. Our server could barely open a bottle of wine on his own. We decided to split a tiramisu for dessert - it was straight from a food service and one of the worst I have ever eaten - we could barely finish it between four of us. Leonie's needs to do a better job - they cannot make it on a good wine list alone!


Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 9:17 a.m.

We tried it out in September and it was so so. First thing I noticed was that Their menu is to big, it makes it much harder to control quality. I had the trout, and similar to shcultz'sexpereince it was cold. We also had the perch and the chicken marsala, they were ok. I will get back and try them out again. Does anyone know if they are serving wine yet? BTW, the best Italian restaurant in the area is in Northville, Little Italy.


Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 9:09 a.m.

@smacks...umm. maybe the first 2 sentences in the review?


Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 7:33 a.m.

My wife and I ate there a couple of weeks ago and I had the steelhead. I had never had steelhead before, and it was good. They had a lot of staff for the size of the place, but we had no complaints. Price was reasonable. You can never have too many nice Italian restaurants, imho, but Paesanos is also my favorite.


Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 7:07 a.m.

My partner and I were disappointed. Called this "Italian fine dining"? We don't think so. Server took forever. Food was cold and a server couldn not be found. Food was horrible and a server could not be found. And it was not cheap!! Waste of time and money. Sorry -- Grade: F.


Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 6:33 a.m.

Ummmm.... What does a review of Leone's have to do with Paesano's? And how doe's it make the reviewer "unaware?"


Thu, Nov 4, 2010 : 6:22 a.m.

no disrespect to Leones...we ate there on their opening night and like it...but the writer seems unaware of Paesanos, further west on Washtenaw, with it's james beard foundation -recognized chef, wine spectator-recognized wine list and truly novel and seasonal north italian menu. But yes...the more the merrier in the italian fine dining arena.