The white tablecloths and silverware tucked into cloth napkins telegraphed that Michelangelo Ristorante was an upscale destination for special occasions like anniversaries and landmark birthdays.

And for most of the past 28 years at 420 W. Magee Road in Oro Valley, that’s been just fine.

But in recent years, as restaurants have skewed more casual in their decor and menus, Michelangelo’s was starting to get labeled as “too fancy,” said owner Giuseppe Ali.

“People were coming in for the anniversary or birthday dinner. ... It was almost becoming a destination place,” said Ali, son of founders Damiano and Assunta Ali.

As Michelangelo’s regulars have gotten older, the notion of being a “special occasion destination” is not really financially feasible in a restaurant industry that ;eans more casual.

So on Aug. 17, the Ali family closed the restaurant and began an extensive monthlong make-over that will start with those tablecloths and include installing a wood-burning pizza oven in an area of the kitchen visible from the dining room. The menu will not change much, but it will have lower prices and a more casual selection including more pizzas.

Ali said he hopes the changes attract a younger clientele.

“Business is still good, but we’re losing a lot of our regulars just because of their age,” he explained. “Our demographic is older.”

Michelangelo’s has been in Oro Valley 28 of its 32 years. Damiano and Assunta Ali opened it as an offshoot of their earlier restaurants — they opened their first one in 1972 — that included Michelangelo’s predecessor Damiano’s on Stone Avenue downtown.

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at or 573-4642. On Twitter @Starburch

Cathalena has covered music for the Star for the past 20 years. She's a graduate of Arizona State University has worked at Sedona Red Rock News, Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, New York; and USA Today.