by Sally Mitani
John Roumanis and his new partner, son Peter Roumanis, have started work on their Main Street restaurant, which as of early July still didn't have a name. Peter graduated from Cornell's School of Hotel Administration, worked for Mario Batali in New York (at Del Posto), and returned to Ann Arbor last year. The new restaurant, next to the Ravens Club, will be two stories, seating about 140. "It will be American food, composed, local, and beautiful. That's all I can tell you right now," says John (Peter was in Germany).
John is also giving Mediterrano, which he opened in 1995, a face-lift and has been gradually tweaking the menu. He explains that no matter how good your restaurant is, "people don't just come for the food. They come for the food, plus the ambience, plus the service. Otherwise, they would just do it themselves. There always has to be a sense of renewal." The additions to the menu include branzino, gnudi (like gnocchi), walleye, and roasted game hen; but the real change to the menu is not the additions but the subtractions. "Less is more" is the fashion on restaurant menus these days. "Our menu was huge. Now you want to have one steak and it's the best. You don't want to have five steaks. When you really focus on quality, how can you have five people focusing on sixty things? They do a much better job when they focus on twenty-eight things."
The renovation won't be dramatic but "just enough for people to notice." Fresh paint, fresh tile in the entryway, chairs, tables. He's hoping not to close for more than a day or two. He's keeping Geraldine Sakall's three large paintings.
That triptych of large canvases with a sun-drenched rustic simplicity reminiscent of, perhaps, Matisse has an interesting history. Roumanis saw the artist's work in a museum in Traverse City on a family vacation around the time he was planning Mediterrano, took photos of it, and commissioned his interior designer to paint some murals that captured some of their flavor. But Sakall somehow got wind of it, and to her, imitation wasn't a form of flattery. She came down to see them and was traumatized. After a series of tearful (on her side) negotiations, Sakall and Roumanis worked out a deal, and her originals now hang in the restaurant.
Mediterrano, 2900 S. State, Suite 7, 332-9700. Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sat. noon-10 p.m., Sun. noon-9 p.m.
[Originally published in August, 2012.]
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