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Zana restaurant receives final approval

By Kevin Elliott


Plans by restaurateur Mario Camaj to open a modern-casual restaurant in the former Vinotecca location, 210 S. Old Woodward, this coming spring were approved on Monday, October 25, by the Birmingham City Commission.


Zana will serve contemporary American fare with a touch of the Mediterranean, offering traditional lunch, dinner and weekend brunch service, as well as a banquet facility with capacity for more than 100 people. Overall, the location has seating for nearly 250, leading Camaj to add a second kitchen for weekend service and special events.


Camaj purchased Tallulah Wine Bar and Bistro, 155 S. Bates, in 2013, and opened BESA Detroit in 2018. Raised in Albania, Camaj moved to Michigan two decades ago.


“Zana is an Albanian word. It means the beauty of the highlands, so it has a little bit of my heritage. I’m Albanian myself and have been in this beautiful country for 20 years, and here we are,” Camaj explained.


Camaj said he is planning to open Zana in March of 2022. He plans on offering lunch service during the week, consisting of salads, sandwiches, burgers and pasta. A separate dinner menu will offer steaks, seafood, pasta and other American cuisine with a Mediterranean flare.


On Monday, Camaj went before the city commission for final approval of a special land use permit, final site plans and design review. Commissioners unanimously approved the items.


“We want to thank you for investing in the community and activating that big space. It is a big space, and it’s a big undertaking. We wish you best of luck and can’t thank you enough,” said Birmingham Mayor Pierre Boutros.


Birmingham Planning Board members in September, who recommended city commissioners approve the requests, noted the size of the restaurant.


Previously, the building was home to South Bar, which closed in 2012, following a spate of violence at the nightclub. Following tenants used the space as special banquet and event spaces. Camaj said in September that the restaurant will oversee all events, with safety a main concern.


“I have an existing business in town and I like to welcome anyone and everyone through my doors, but at the same time my priority is the safety of our guests, the safety of my staff and the people around me, and myself,” he said. “There is money to be made, but in a fair way that ensures everyone goes home at the end of the night, and is safe.”

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