After there were no bistro applicants for 2019 by the first city deadline in October 2018, the Birmingham planning department received two applicants by its April 1, 2019 deadline, for Pernoi and Brooklyn Pizza, and the Birmingham City Commission unanimously approved moving them both forward to the planning board for full site plan and design review and special land use permit review at their meeting on Monday, April 22.
Planning director Jana Ecker explained that the city commission can issue up to two bistro licenses per year.
“We didn't have any applicants in October. We have two for our second round for April 1st. This is our pre-application presentation,” she said. “The first applicant is Pernoi, for the Cafe Via space, the other for Brooklyn Pizza, on Henrietta.”
Commissioner Rackeline Hoff asked why Pernoi was applying for a new bistro license rather than using Cafe Via's, and Ecker said that Cafe Via had been closed for longer than six months, meaning the license had expired. To further questioning, she explained it could not be sold to another location as all bistro licenses are tied to the location for which they are approved.
Luciano DelSignore, representing Pernoi, explained he has been the owner of the high-end Italian restaurant Bacco in Southfield. He said he will be the co-owner of Pernoi, “which will be a contemporary, high-end refined food establishment.”
In its proposal, it explained, “Pernoi will be an upscale French, Italian and Japanese restaurant located at 310 East Maple Road, in the space previously operated by Café Via. The concept is extremely contemporary and the menu will rotate frequently. This new and exciting concept will be operated by two award- winning Chefs, Luciano DelSignore and Takashi Yagihashi. The focus will be on global contemporary cuisine, where Italian pastas will likely find themselves alongside Japanese noodles. This is unique to the city and the state. Pernoi will offer dinner and will be open Tuesday through Saturday from 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. and will be open on Sundays and Mondays for special events.”
A preliminary menu shows appetizers which include unique applications to fish, seafood, meat and vegetables.
DelSignore told commissioners the majority of the restaurant would feature “prix fixe food with a bit of a dress code, while the bar area will be a little more casual, a little more neighborhood.”
He noted the outdoor courtyard is “exceptional.” He said they were aware that all-season Isenglass is no longer permitted by ordinance.
Patrick Howe, representing Sam Abdelfatah, owner of Brooklyn Pizza at 111 Henrietta, said, “Since 1996, Brooklyn Pizza has been an institution in Birmingham. Sam wants to expand into Birmingham Geek (195 W. Maple Road), expand to a 10-seat bar, expand the menu, add another entrance on W. Maple, which would be terrific, with an increased emphasis on Italian gelatos and coffees.”
By expanding, they would then have about 60 interior seats and about 40 exterior seats.
Abdelfatah said Brooklyn Pizza and Birmingham Geek share the same building and same owner, and that while Birmingham Geek has a lease until 2020, they are willing to leave early if he is able to do this. He said if approved, he hopes to begin renovations in September and open in October/November.
Howe said there would not be televisions added to the bar as Brooklyn wants to maintain its family atmosphere.”By expanding to the neighboring space on Maple, it will help activate Maple. A second entrance on Maple will create more foot traffic for the retail businesses along Maple...The bar area will be for dining and socializing.”
The expanded menu includes sandwiches, appetizers, including wings, and more desserts.
“I'm excited about Bacco's chef to come to town and a longtime restaurant expanding,” said mayor pro tem Pierre Boutros.
“In this situation we have an existing restaurant and a new bistro, so we don't have prioritize,” said commissioner Stuart Sherman, explaining that the city can give separate bistro licenses to existing restaurants who have been in the city at least five years, as well as to new proposed restaurants.
Commissioners voted 7-0 to forward both proposed bistro license applications to the city's planning board.