October 2nd
The East side Italian restaurant king, Da Edoardo's Patriarch going strong at 89

The story of Ed Barbieri, founder of the East Side’s Da Edoardo restaurant, is one of the most unique and fascinating that the Visionalist crew has yet encountered among Detroit-based Italian Americans.

Many of the subjects of our interviews are in their eighties and nineties, and as such, were young men during World War II, and most served in the military in one capacity or another. Barbieri is our first interview with a soldier who fought ‘on the other side’.

The other side being the Italian Army, of course, where under Mussolini, Barbieri (along with tens of thousand of reluctant countrymen) were conscripted and forced into battle in Tunisia alongside the acclaimed, but ultimately defeated Field Marshal Rommel. As it happened, Barbieri was taken prisoner during his first week of actual combat, a happenstance which his son Eddie (now manager of three Da Edoardo restaurants, in Grand Blanc and on the lobby floor of the beautifully restored Fox Theatre, along with the original on Mack—along with sister Alicia, Nini’s Café on Kercheval rounds out the quartet of Barbieri) says, “Was the best thing that could have happened.”

And as history revealed, it was. Taken as a POW to Fort Wayne (at the foot of Livernois Avenue, fronting the Detroit River) Barbieri spent the rest of the war years in the barracks here, although unlike the brutal treatment that American soldiers received in the prisons of Japan and Germany, Barbieri remembers his term of incarceration with some degree of fondness. Whereas he was undeniably compromised in terms of freedom, he recalls great kindness shown him by American troops and officers, and gets teary-eyed to this day recounting his first Christmas at Fort Wayne when Bill Tocco, a prominent Detroit businessman, brought gifts to all 500 prisoners, a practical care package of underwear and toiletries. His stint at Fort Wayne including cooking for his fellow prisoners, but so popular were his Italian specialties that enlisted men and officers began to show up to dine with the POW’s.

Fort Wayne was also where Barbieri met his future wife, Ann, a Red Cross volunteer who took the blood donation from the young prisoner and wound up being courted. Regulations at Fort Wayne evidently permitted such contact, and several years later, freed and returned to Italy —where his parents were shocked to discover him alive—he married Anne in a ceremony at the Duomo of Modena, one of the most important Romanesque buildings of Europe and a place where Pavarotti’s father, a choir leader, could regularly be heard.

Once back in Detroit , Barbieri went into a number of restaurant ventures, culminating in La Lanterna, a Griswold standby during the fifties and sixties. Da Edoardo, which was built as an emporium of classy dining and impeccable service, is now in its third generation of Barbieri. Having recently, regrettably, lost Anne, the patriarch remains active in the business at eighty-nine, and proved himself to be as rich with advice for youngsters as he is with stories of Detroit through tough times and good.

Ed Jr. reflecting on his fathers life with Producer Keith Famie

An incrediable creation by Ed Jr.

Ed Jr. in front of the families historical restauant in
Grosse Point