If you want to feel the history and love of Detroit, have lunch or dinner at Detroit's legendary Roma Cafe in Eastern Market. The city's oldest restaurant was founded in 1890 and is now in it's third generation of family ownership. The recent passing of owner Hector Sossi, age 92, brings back fond memories of one of my favorite Italian Restaurants.
My first introduction to the Roma Cafe was years ago through one of our city's favorite sons, businessman Ed Deeb. He wanted to meet there for lunch. Breaking bread and eating Italian cuisine with Ed at this well-known spot is an unforgettable experience! Ed knew practically everyone who walked in the door and vice versa. Customers constantly stopped by the table to greet and pay respect to the man who used his marketing skills and connections to save a once troubled Eastern Market area.
A few weeks ago, Ed and I got together again for lunch at Roma's. Janet Sossi Belcoure, Hector Sossi's daughter who now runs the day-to-day business at the restaurant, sat down with us for several minutes. She talked about the history of the Roma Cafe and her Dad's devotion to Detroit. She also shared funny stories about his past surgery and first-class care at the Cleveland Clinic. As a matter of fact, we traded stories. I lost my father to brain cancer last August. He was 90 and a life long resident of Cleveland. He too loved the Clinic's care!
Belcoure, Ed and I laughed about how her Dad still enjoyed coming into the restaurant a few hours each week to keep an eye on his business and play a weekly card game with his friends. Just a few years shy of a century on this earth, this ritual kept Sossi's mind and body active.
About a week ago, after visiting the Detroit Institute of Arts "30 Americans" exhibit, I took my family back to Roma's for dinner. And once again, I was reminded of Hector Sossi and his family's dedication to making the red structured building on Riopelle a Detroit institution we should all treasure for generations to come.