Andrew Carmellini’s First Detroit Project Makes an Impressive Debut
When James Beard Award-winning chef and restaurateur Andrew Carmellini opened San Morello last month, he was met with a massive crowd eager to get a glimpse – and taste – of his first Detroit restaurant. Carmellini, an instrumental figure in New York dining, is known for his game-changing restaurants like Locanda Verde and the Dutch. He’s opened other concepts on the East Coast, in Baltimore and Miami, but never in the Midwest.
Now the chef, who actually grew up in the Midwest in a suburb outside of Cleveland, will spend quite a bit of time in downtown Detroit as he oversees 16,000 square feet of retail and food and beverage space at the first-ever Shinola Hotel. Together with NoHo Hospitality Group partners Josh Pickard and Luke Ostrom, Carmellini is in charge of San Morello, an all-day Southern Italian restaurant with wood-fired dishes, pizzas, and house-made pasta, and three other concepts expected to open within the next few months.
"We got involved in the project because Shinola is all about craftsmanship and that really appealed to me as a core value,” Carmellini says. “Detroit has been very welcoming, and I'm looking forward to being a part of the community for a long time.”
In fact, Carmellini’s first cooking gig at age 14 was at an Italian restaurant near his Midwestern home. All these years later, at San Morello, the chef marries his appreciation for the cuisines of coastal towns in Southern Italy and Sicily with Detroit’s urban environment. The result is a menu complete with the OG Pizza, topped with pepperoni, mozzarella, and Fresno chili, side-by-side with the Indian Brook Trout Piccata.
“San Morello is all about a coastal kind of cooking with seafood, but also mountain cooking with wood fires and meats like lamb,” he says. “It’s very vibrant, with a lot of acid, herbs, and vinegar. There’s about 80 percent traditionally inspired and like a touch of American Italian just to bring it home a little bit."
The other three concepts, which will open before summer, include Evening Bar, similar to Carmellini’s NYC flagship with craft cocktails and small bites; Penny Red’s, a fried chicken restaurant with honey-butter biscuits and vegetables; and the Brakeman, a beer hall stocked with Midwestern brews, games like shuffleboard and ping pong, and bites from Penny Red’s.
For now, the hotel, along with San Morello, is open and accepting reservations. There’s also a lobby bar called Living Room and full-service in-room dining.
The Shinola Hotel. 1400 Woodward Ave., Detroit.