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2017 Recap: Legendary Roma Cafe in Eastern Market Closes After 127 Years

December 30, 2017, 7:00 AM Crain's Detroit Business


This repost from July 14 is the runner-up in our Top 10 countdown of most-read articles in 2017. Links to earlier installments are at the end.

Roma Café. a 127-year-old fixture on Riopelle Street in the recesses of Detroit's Eastern Market, has closed. 

The Sossi family that owned the traditional Italian restaurant for nearly the past century shut the doors, but the head chef is renovating the building and plans to reopen this fall under a similar name, reports Chad Livengood of Crain's Detroit Business.

♦ Update: It reopened Dec. 16 as Amore da Roma, serving lunch and dinner six days a week. Sunday hours are "coming soon."

The place is a classic that served all types of folks, including mayors and dignitaries including Vice President Joe Biden. But it began to look dated and was forced to compete with the sudden onslaught of trendy new restaurants in the city.

"New Detroit is forcing Old Detroit to change or perish," Deadline Detroit reader Mike Leonhard comments on Facebook with a link to this post.

It was long overdue for a makeover.

The restaurant's new name.

A sign posted late this week on the bright red front door says: "After 127 years of continuous service at this location, Roma Cafe is out-of-business and permanently CLOSED," Crain's reports.

"Grazie molto to all of the incredible people over the years who helped create so many wonderful memories at Roma," owner Janet Sossi Belcoure wrote in the note signed "Love & Pasta."

She's the third-generation owner of a landmark in an 1888 building. Its website summarizes the century-plus heritage:

The Marazza family served the Eastern Market vendors as a boarding house for farmers, with a warm meal included.  Mrs. Marazza's reputation as a fine cook spread quickly throughout the Eastern Market area.  At the urging of her fans, she expanded service and opened her restaurant in February of 1890, the Roma Café.

In 1918, the business was sold to Mr. John Battaglia and Mr. Morris Sossi.  As they began their partnership, an addition was put on the building, which exists exactly the same today.  Within one year, John Battaglia died and Morris Sossi bought out his widow to become the sole owner of Roma Café.

Livengood speaks to Guy Pelino, head chef since 2014 after 14 years at Mario's in Midtown for 14 years.


He's renovating the 154-seat restaurant and will reopen after Labor Day under the name of Roma's Cucina.

"We'll keep the same traditional dishes, keep the charm of the place," he said.

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The new awning and sign at 3401 Riopelle St., just north of Eastern Market. (Facebook photo)



Read more:  Crain's Detroit Business

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