More "Zip Sauce," from DETROIT NEWS

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Mon Feb 2 03:47:57 UTC 2004

   The DETROIT FREE PRESS has archives back to 1994, and there were 13 "zip sauce" hits.
   I just checked the DETROIT NEWS (  The archives go back to 2000, but there are 16 hits.  Plus, the DETROIT NEWS archives are free!
25 January 2001
   Please help these readers in their search for recipes:

Tim Kelleher of Detroit: Zip sauce like that served at the old Lelli’s restaurant.
17 October 2003
Restaurant Review
Old favorites are new again at Lelli's
By Molly Abraham / Special to The Detroit News

Lelli's of Auburn Hills
885 Opdyke Road
Auburn Hills
(248) 373-4440.

AUBURN HILLS -- Any restaurant with a menu cover that reads "Since 1939" deserves respect. And even though Lelli's is no longer in its original Detroit location, that patchwork of rooms with butter-colored stucco walls on Woodward Avenue just north of Grand Boulevard, in its suburban reincarnation it remains a restaurant where the old values are very much in place.

The waitstaff is in black tie. The curvy banquettes along the wall are plump and inviting, the white linen-covered tables nicely spaced, lights low. The classic roadhouse menu is rife with vintage items such as prosciutto with melon, chicken cacciatore, zuppa inglese and biscuit tortoni. You almost expect to see Chianti in straw-wrapped bottles.

It's the kind of restaurant that's comforting in its complete lack of trendiness. And it's interesting to note that it draws a young crowd that probably never dined at the old Lelli's (which burned down on Valentine's Day in 2000), along with their elders who did.

It was interesting the other evening to watch how many patrons were ordering Chateaubriand (at $42 per person) -- and that included both the young and the formerly young in the Friday night crowd. That vintage dish of beef tenderloin surrounded, in Lelli's case, by au gratin potatoes, glazed carrots and creamed spinach, is still a crowd pleaser with its tableside presentation that makes a production out of the meal. Lelli's is benefitting from the fact that many of these old dishes are new again, getting an appreciative eye from those finding the gems for the first time.

The "new" Lelli's, run by the founders' son Michael, and his son and daughter, Steve and Rebecca, opened in 1996 in a free-standing building about a half mile north of the Silverdome.

Its two spacious dining rooms flank a central bar, and while this may look like a place where a cigar or two could be seen, the entire restaurant is nonsmoking.

Full-course dinners still begin with an antipasto tray of the Italian cold meats, salami, mortadella and capicola, sliced paper-thin and definitely the stars of the tray, along with a small chunk of mild cheese, one shrimp per person, some pepperoncini and not very choice black olives. The tray has a skimpy look, but given what is to follow for those ordering the full dinner including even the finishing touch of spumoni, skimpiness turns out to be a blessing in disguise.

Next comes Lelli's minestrone, a signature dish for years, creamy and delicate rather than robust, its tomato base tinted pink with the addition of cream, and the vegetables nearly pureed. It too is a classic, made from a recipe the family has always kept a secret.

A simple green salad follows, dotted with plump little garbanzo beans, in the kind of subtle, vinegar and oil dressings that outscore the sometimes overly elaborate concoctions dreamed up by contemporary chefs. Less should be more when it comes to dressing, and this one glazes but doesn't overwhelm the fresh greens. (And no, they aren't the bitter field greens, as you can probably guess.)

A side dish of spaghetti with Bolognese sauce precedes the chosen entree, which for many people is going to be what the menu calls "Our famous broiled filet mignon."

(THIS PARAGRAPH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!--ed.)
It's a knockout, plump, tender but not soft, and pretty much unadorned, which is the way it should be. I never could understand smothering good beef with overpowering sauces, although the house zip sauce -- another vintage item -- is a requirement for many diners. Like the minestrone, its recipe is never divulged. But an amateur sleuth thinks it might be a mix of butter, olive oil and teriyaki seasoning. The only other accompaniment: the excellent house au gratin potatoes.

Of course, there is much more to choose from than just "our famous filet." There are veals in treatments from Marsala to Tosca, all Provimi, and the long list of house-made pastas includes several versions of spaghetti with sauces ranging from meat and marinara to red and white clam; baked lasagna, fettuccine Alfredo and the most popular of all, mostacioli with palmina, a pale, creamy tomato sauce. The pasta price structure, however, is jarring. Even simple spaghetti Bolognese is $21, with several others hitting the $25 to $27 mark as part of the full dinner. (Light dinners, including just soup or salad, side dish of spaghetti or potato, are $5 to $6 less expensive).

On Sundays, Lelli's trots out an admirable children's menu, which includes a 3-ounce filet for gourmands in training. It's $9.50 with all the trimmings. The Lelli family still owns the piece of land on Woodward Avenue in midtown Detroit where the original flourished for so many years, making it possible that the fourth generation could some day return to the city.

After all, their former neighbors, the Detroit Lions, did.

You can reach Molly Abraham at (313) 222-1475 or abraham67@ Jane Rayburn will return next week.

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