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    Posted November 29, 2012 by
    Farmington Hills, Michigan
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    100 places to eat like a local

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    Cafe Cortina - one of Metro Detroit's best kept secrets!

    As a long-time food writer, I was surprised to learn about Cafe Cortina while on assignment earlier this year - searching for restaurants with on-site gardens. It doesn't get much more local than that!

    What a treasure I found tucked in beneath towering trees, adorned with twinkling lights, on a hot summer evening. Below is my write up from the summer issue of Michigan BLUE Magazine (www.MiBlueMag.com) When Rina & Adriano Tonon plotted a five-acre chef’s garden as part of Café Cortina’s original blueprint back in 1976, people said they were crazy. Yet, over time, the garden has rooted this Italian destination eatery – located in Farmington Hills – as one of Michigan’s original farm-to-table venues.

    Today, under the watchful eye of son Adrian Tonon (a third generation restaurateur), the gardens have grown into an integral part of the restaurant’s day-to-day operations. Considered one of the Metro Detroit area’s best kept secrets, Café Cortina delivers rustic peasant fare – or “farm chic” as Adrian calls it, with polished service.

    “At Café Cortina, we strive to create moments of happiness – of genuine hospitality. We feel fortunate to be able make a positive difference in our local community,” says Adrian. “Breaking bread is the one of greatest things in life.”

    Once an apple orchard, the grounds of this artisanal restaurant are now adorned with aromatic herbs and vegetables reminiscent of old world Italy – rapini, arugula, radicchio, swiss chard, basil, rosemary, mint, eggplant, zucchini and nearly four dozen 80-year-old heirloom tomato plants.

    “Tomatoes are the base of Italian cooking and we want to bring in as many of the flavors from our homeland as we can,” Adrian says, who finds gardening therapeutic. “It’s a Zen thing.”

    While using the produce fresh – the day it is harvested – is the ultimate goal, some items are processed by Chef Jeffrey “Hoffa” Hoffman and his team for use throughout the year. Tomatoes are sun dried or canned and basil is turned into pesto, so that even in the winter, there is the influence from the garden.

    Consumers can also find the Ristorante Café Cortina brand of sauces – such as Pomodoro Veneziana, Aglio Del Veneto, Sughetto and Sugo Del Veneto – at specialty markets in Michigan and throughout the country. A line of fresh and frozen Bolognese sauces will be introduced throughout Michigan in the fall.

    Café Cortina is located at 30715 W. 10 Mile, Farmington Hills (www.cafecortina.com).
    This iReport is part of an assignment that we created with Travel + Leisure:  100 places to eat like a local
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