Their stylish menus are enticing enough to attract a loyal clientele of discriminating diners, but no matter how expert they are, restaurant people like to take a break from their own kitchens for a taste of someone else’s cooking.
“Sundays to me are sacred,” says Mark Camaj, executive chef at Downtown Louie’s Lounge. “It’s my one day off a week that I can enjoy myself, spend it with my wife, and let someone else do the cooking.” His favorites include Drago’s in Sterling Heights where he orders the burek, an Albanian staple, and a childhood favorite. Second on his list is El Barzon in southwest Detroit, “for their great cocktails and amazing food. Eddie and the team do a great job, and really make you feel at home. And their cavatelli alla boscaiola is one of the best pastas I’ve ever tasted in my life.” Lastly would have to be sister restaurant, Louie’s Ham and Corned Beef, in Eastern Market. “Their corned beef hash is a personal favorite, and their pecan pancakes really hit the spot,” he says.
Camaj’s kitchen compatriot at Downtown Louie’s is chef de cuisine Mario Gojcaj, whose go-to spot is Tivoli’s Pizzeria on Van Dyke Avenue in Utica. “The dining room experience is like being at home,” he says. “I like the Bufalina pizza, which is simply tomato, oregano, olive oil, basil, and fresh buffalo mozzarella.” One of his Midtown favorites is Tony V’s Tavern, where he sits outdoors to enjoy wood-cooked pizza. “The huge garage door opens up and creates an open air space with plenty of sunlight, which gives it a lofty feel,” he says. And he agrees with Camaj about El Barzon. “My favorite Detroit spot as well as overall restaurant. The cozy ambience and over-the-top hospitality make you feel at home, and the food always leaves you satisfied.”