By Nina Taormina

In the heart of Grosse Pointe Woods, you’ll find “a little corner of Italy on Mack Avenue” in Licavoli’s Market. Opened in 2015, it didn’t take long to realize this neighborhood gem was exactly what this area needed.

While I’m biased to all things Italian given my heritage, Licavoli’s Market instantly won me over. A different concept than the famous Bommarito’s in St. Clair Shores, owners Phil and Jill checked their first box of making their dreams come true.

courtesy photo
Original light from Phil’s father’s restaurant shows two crosses when lit.

Phil Licavoli was raised in his father’s Italian restaurant, Villanova, which proudly stood for 45 years on McNichols in Detroit. He always knew he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and feed the community with fresh, flavorful, homemade Italian favorites.

Step inside the market and you’ll be hit with an unbelievable aroma. I suggest doing a lap first to soak it all in. With the original sconce light from Villanova at the entrance, walls adorned with family pictures and hand-painted Italian murals, your first stop will feature a variety of imported cheeses.

Then you’ll find a grab-n-go pre-made entree selection that makes dinner quick and easy. Made fresh in house, options include lasagna, chicken parmesan, pasta carbonara and Italian favorites like arancini and spiedini.

The market menu features a variety of made-to-order eight-inch submarine-style sandwiches, including a classic Italian with prosciutto, mortadella and all the best Italian deli meats, eggplant parmesan and my favorite, breaded steak with ammoglio (tenderloin siciliano).

Freshly made salads are big enough to share. If I’m in charge of bringing a salad somewhere and have no time to make it, I’m grabbing their antipasto.

More than five different calzones are made daily, delicious soups during the colder seasons and obviously, some of the best stone-fired pizzas around.

Arancini appetizer at Villanova.

Place your order at the kitchen counter window, grab yourself a San Pellegrino from the beverage cooler and a seat at one of the wooden tables, then enjoy once you hear your ticket number called and have checked out. A carryout option is always a plus when you’re in a hurry to get the kids to practice or grabbing lunch for the office as I usually do. Call ahead with a 15- to 20-minute window and you’ll be all set. What kid doesn’t love a fresh slice or a pepperoni roll on the go?

The market aspect is a great neighborhood go-to for all your Italian cooking and charcuterie needs. A variety of every noodle you can think of, sauces, breads, crackers, chips, dips, cheeses, olives and relishes wrap around the entire store and in every nook you can find. Aside from old-fashioned candies and imported specialty sweets that surround the checkout counter, there’s a dedicated area for your sweet tooth too. While you may catch Philip Jr., in the kitchen making your pizza, Phil’s daughter, Josie, has a talented gift as well. Her specialty is sweets. She now has her own section of the market to call her own: Licavoli’s Sugar Coated Designs by Josie. This section truly is the sweetest set up. I absolutely love her snickerdoodles! Baby and bridal showers, office events, graduation parties — any party, any theme, she’s got you covered — and your guests will be amazed by her delicious designs. They make great gifts, too, when you don’t want to show up empty-handed. Place custom orders at the market or contact her via personal message on her business Facebook page.

With the holidays upon us, I highly recommend Licavoli’s Catering for all your entertainment needs, from trays of pasta with five different sauces to choose from, to half and full trays of lasagna, to holiday and party faves like Italian sausage and peppers, chicken piccata, marsala and my personal favorite, lemon breaded chicken. They make it easy on the host with all the side fixings and cooking/heating directions too.

Family meal? Yep! Choice of chicken, pasta and salad for $60, and it’s enough to feed six. Pizza-making night at home for the kids? Chef Jake pizza kits are always available. One kit makes one large cheese and pepperoni pizza and $2 gets donated to a children’s charity. Jake Pennar loved his Licavoli’s “family,” especially their pizza. What an amazing way to keep this little chef’s memory alive.

courtesy photo
“Pennies from Heaven” table at Villanova.

As we Italians always say, “Sundays are for family.” Market hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday. You can view market and catering options online at licavolismarket.com or visit Licavoli’s Market, 20915 Mack, Grosse Pointe Woods.

In 2022, Phil and Jill checked their next box of dreams. A sit-down Italian restaurant located on Jefferson’s Nautical Mile in St. Clair Shores. Keeping the family tradition from 1960 going, Licavoli’s Villanova Pizzeria opened in August 2022. This is the only Italian restaurant on the Nautical Mile, a fare this area of town was missing. It sits at the corner of Jefferson and Downing, the same street Jill’s grandparents lived on and where her mom was raised. She has many childhood memories of cooking with her grandmother here and her parents met at the Steak & Eggs restaurant on the next block, where her mother worked as a teen.

Previously Steve’s Back Room, this location was meant to be for these two. Villanova offers an eclectic atmosphere designed to make you feel like you’re in Florence, Italy, or on the Amalfi Coast. There’s a different Italian flair in each of three dining spaces, one of which includes a bar with excellent cocktail and wine options, including their very own house blend. You might even catch Jill’s son, Dominic, making sure everything is fully stocked. In this space you can reserve “The Godfather” booth, which seats eight to 10 and is definitely a favorite spot. You can even sign your name on the wall.

Another special table is the “Pennies from Heaven” table. Handmade by a childhood friend of Jill’s, this table is covered in pennies and 10 percent of your bill gets donated to a local charity each month. This table also seats eight to 10 diners.

The full menu offers delicious shareable appetizers like fried ravioli, arancini and calamari, as well as excellent entrees, pastas, seafood and, yes, pizzas you won’t find at the market. Wind down your visit with a frothy cappuccino and homemade-in-house desserts. I could indulge on their tiramisu daily. It’s the best I’ve ever had from a restaurant outside of Italy. They offer weekly specials like “2 for Tuesdays” with the option of two entrees for $30 — either two pasta, ravioli or gnocchi with your choice of sauce, or two stone-fired pizzas. Both come with soup or salad.

Walk-ins are welcome anytime after 3 p.m. and reservations are suggested for groups larger than four, especially on weekends. They fill up fast this time of year and time slots for holiday gatherings are already open. Call (586) 585-1989 to get your name on the list.

It’s open 2 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 2 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.  Dine in, carry out or get delivery via Door Dash to accommodate your preferences. You can view menu options online at pizzeriavillanova.com or stop by Licavoli’s Villanova Pizzeria, 24317 Jefferson, St. Clair Shores.

Family means everything to Phil and Jill and that’s how they treat every person who walks through their doors. Their generosity to our local communities speaks volumes and feeds souls.

Their check of dream box No. 3 is coming soon to The Village. The GP Eats & Treats page on Facebook will surely have all the updates. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.

Stay tuned. Stay hungry.

 



Source link