Café Cortina — a true taste of Italy

By Published On: February 20, 2024
cafe cortina

Courtesy of Café Cortina

Nestled on a former apple orchard, Café Cortina feels like a trip to an idyllic Italian countryside. Founded in 1976 by Rina Tonon and her late husband, Adriano, the iconic Farmington Hills eatery continues to enthrall guests with its authenticity, old world traditions, and its warm, welcoming ambiance.

“My husband and I bought [the property] back in the early ’70s with the vision of having a farm-to-table, artisan restaurant. And we did that. We accomplished it. We opened the restaurant, and we had a beautiful garden in the back, and we served all fresh produce here,” Tonon says. “We built this reputation, and it was really by word of mouth.”

After Adriano’s passing, Tonon, wanting to continue her husband’s legacy, decided to expand the restaurant with her two sons, Adrian and Giancarlo. She converted a former garden into a stunning patio and began offering events in a private brick-lined room that overlooks the patio through elegant French doors. Word quickly spread of the restaurant’s intimate receptions that can host up to 150 guests for larger dinners. “It’s not a cookie cutter venue,” says Tonon, who also hosts micro weddings throughout the week.

cafe cortina

Courtesy of Café Cortina

From the bucolic gardens to the breathtaking patio, covered courtyard, indoor and outdoor fireplaces, linen-wrapped tables, the elegant décor, the personalized printed menus for each guest, and the unsurpassable meals curated by Chef Ernesto Luis Antopia (the restaurant even offers vegan and gluten-free entrees), Café Cortina is a romantic yet relaxed choice for any couple. “It’s a very warm ambiance when you walk in. You just feel at home, and I can’t say enough about the staff. You can have a beautiful restaurant, but if you don’t have a warm, inviting staff, people are not going to come back,” Tonon says.

Tonon and her superb staff are also “very meticulous,” about what they serve. “You know, everything has to be freshly made on premise,” she says. In the summer, any herbs, lettuces, and heirloom tomatoes (whose seeds have been passed down through the Tonon family) used on the menu are grown on site, as are the eggplant and zucchini. “And we make all our breads,” she says. Fresh, authentic, quality meals are key, and her dedication to the craft is easily seen. “We took eight people on our staff to Italy about two months ago,” Tonon says. “We let them see and understand the culture … they had to get a real taste for Italy.”

After 45 years, the restaurant’s beloved authenticity is what makes it feel like home for so many. “We’re actually working on our third-generation clientele.” Tonon says. “When I opened, you know, I saw the grandparents, and then their kids, and now their kids are here. It’s really such a compliment.”

cafe cortina

Courtesy of Café Cortina

On March 4, 2024, Café Cortina will host one of its four annual themed wine dinners. For more information and to make a reservation, visit cafecortina.com.

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