Italians in the News

FENTON, MI – Workers and ownership scurried around the new Andiamo Restaurant Monday afternoon putting the finishing touches on a multi-million dollar project that has been in the works for months.

Located in the three-story Horizon Building at 102 West Silver Lake Road, Suite 1, the Italian eatery is set to open Wednesday, Feb. 6.

Dominic Vicari, an operating partner with the Joe Vicari Restaurant Group who will oversee all daily operations, was excited the day has finally arrived for the approximately $2.5 million eatery, the first Andiamo in Genesee County.

His father Joe started the Andiamo brand 30 years. It has grown into a total of eight Metro Detroit Andiamo locations, two Joe Muer Seafoodlocations, Brownies on the Lake in St. Clair Shores, three Country Inn locations, five 29/41 Mediterranean Street Food locations, the 800-seat Andiamo Celebrity Showroom located within Andiamo Warren and the Andiamo Italian Steakhouse at The D Hotel in Las Vegas.

Along the years, Joe and Rosalie, Dominic’s mother, purchased a home 15 years ago on Lake Fenton.

“We’ve seen the city grow over that time,” Dominic Vicari said. “This (property) used to be an old gas station, collision shop. Now it’s a magnificent building.”

The first thing patrons will see upon walking through the front doors of the restaurant is a large bar seating area with an intricate light fixture that provides full meal service, craft cocktails and 12 beer taps Vicari said will rotate on occasion with new brews.

At each end of the roughly 9,000 square-foot space are large dining rooms including an all-season spot with large windows facing out to the downtown area. The spaces will be available for private gatherings.

Andiamo Restaurant is setting up in the three-story Horizon Building at the corner of Silver Lake Road and North Leroy Street along with Raymond James Wealth Management & The Horizon Group Financial Advisors and Serra Automotive.

“This is a newer (design). Our other locations are more like that traditional Italian restaurant (with darker lighting),” said Vicaro. “This is a little more casual, more rustic ... that new kind of feel we want to go with. I felt like this design would be a perfect fit for up here.”

The menu will offer the traditional scratch cooking and many of the dishes Andiamo has become known for, Vicari said, but some new items will also appear including wood-fired pizzas.

“Over the years of doing different specials or doing different things, we have a (recipe) book this size,” he noted, holding his hands several feet apart. “I’ve noticed the trend of Italian cooking is changing a little bit and we kind of want to keep up with that.

“Everybody knows the standards, the tomato Bolognese sauce or the fettuccine alfredo, but to get a crispy friend short rib ravioli that’s something new the chefs are sort of taking on and making a little bit different,” noted Vicari. “We wanted to stay with that curve there.”

Hours of operation are 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday, 4 p.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, and 4 p.m.-9 p.m. Sunday. Reservations are now being taken for Wednesday’s opening.

“We’re happy to be with this building. It’s a great location,” said Vicari. “We’re happy to be in town. We hope to have a lot of people come check us out.”

By Carol Cain, Free Press Business Columnist Published 7:00 a.m. ET March 31, 2018 | Updated 10:38 a.m. ET March 31, 2018

Joe Vicari will head out early this Easter Sunday as he’s done on that holiday and most others since 1982 to greet his guests at Andiamo in Bloomfield and Detroit and six other Detroit eateries he owns to thank them for their business.

He’ll also thank his employees for working the holiday, knowing the toll being away from family takes. The life of most restaurant owners means working holidays, weekends and sometimes missing family things.

For Vicari, CEO of Joe Vicari Restaurant Group, the largest restaurant company in the state with 22 locations in Michigan and Las Vegas, it’s meant 10-12 hour workdays six days a weeks.

And he's ultrasuccessful. He's come a long way from the Ram’s Horn in Warren, which he opened in 1982. Besides Andiamo, he owns Joe Muer Seafood, Brownies on the Lake in St. Clair Shores, Country Inn and 2941 Mediterranean Street Food.

Vicari told me he’s going to open one more restaurant, a Joe Muer Seafood in Las Vegas, and then, he said, “I’m done.”

Vicari, who is 61, is contemplating life away from the restaurant business and even selling the company.

“If the right offer came along and it made sense for my partners,” he said.

“I’d like to travel to Europe and actually the U.S.,” he said. “I’ve traveled to Florida because we have family there and Las Vegas — but it’s for work.”

He wants to spend time with grandchildren, he said — "enjoy the fruits of my labor.”

His son Dominic, 33, is operating partner of Joe Muer Seafood in Bloomfield. But he has no designs on following his father's path.

“Growing up and not seeing his dad a lot, he doesn’t want to follow in my footsteps," Joe Vicari said. "He wants to spend quality time with his three kids."

It is a family run business. Joe's wife, Rosalie Vicari, is chief operations officer of the Joe Vicari Restaurant Group, and his brother John Vicari is operating partner of Joe Muer Seafood in Detroit.

“When I began my vision was to have a successful restaurant that used fresh ingredients, preparing them from scratch daily,” Vicari said. “I never thought I would one day own 22 restaurants. Moving forward, the goal is to maintain a prominent space in the market.”

To accomplish that he’s sometimes defied the trends.

When Opus One and Caucus Club and other longtime downtown Detroit eateries were shutting doors, he opened Andiamo in GM’s Wintergarden and then Joe Muer Seafood.

He added live entertainment at Andiamo in Warren, bringing in about 20 acts a year including Mitch Ryder, America, Stephanie Mills, The Purple Experience and Andrew Dice Clay.

Vicari also is part owner of Freedom Hill.

This year he’s adding another twist — concerts at the Detroit Opera House presented by Andiamo.

Crooner Tom Jones will perform there May 11. And Vicari saw a show in Vegas that blew him away. So in June he’s bringing in “Frank, the Man the Music,” which features the songs of Frank Sinatra with a 32-piece orchestra.

“Business is good,” he said.

Like many establishments hammered by the global economic meltdown of 2008, the road back was slow.

“We really didn’t come back to that level until 2015,” he said.

Given the surge of new eateries popping up around metro Detroit, often with a first-time owner, I asked what advice he might offer them.

“I’ve watched what happens too often. They open their first restaurant and then they overpay people. They don’t realize the amount of capital it takes to open and maintain it over the course of the year.

“Things always come up,” he said.

Near his Andiamo in Sterling Heights, a major road construction project in 2015 lingered for months, causing an estimated loss of $500,000 in business.

“Luckily, I had other restaurants we could turn to make up some of the difference,” he said.

He said his secret to survival — besides offering great food and service — is “having good people working with you.”

Some of his 1,100 employees have been with him since he began.

“One of the most challenging things about having so many locations is finding the right staff that can carry out the level of service and authenticity we expect and maintain,” he said.

What other career might he have pursued if not restaurants?

“I would have done sales of some kind — and then made sure to play more golf,”  he said.

Contact Carol Cain: 313-222-6732 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. She is senior producer/host of “Michigan Matters,” which airs at 11:30 a.m. Sundays on CBS 62. See Shri Thanedar and Abdul El-Sayed on Sunday’s show.

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