Owner/chef Luciano Del Signore, who opened his first Pizzeria Biga location on Franklin Road in Southfield in 2010, said he started the pizzeria out of “a bit of selfishness” as he wanted a place to enjoy the authentic Neapolitan-style pizza that he could not find anywhere in metro Detroit. With the success of his upscale Bacco Ristorante, also in Southfield, Del Signore set out to create a more mainstream “casual expression of great Italian food.”
Roughly two years later, Pizzeria Biga Royal Oak opened its doors. The spacious restaurant occupies two floors in the St. Clair Edison building. Once a coal-burning power plant that supplied electricity to the city's streetcars, the building has exchanged its coal stacks for an Italian-crafted Stefano Ferrara pizza oven. The Michigan hardwood-fired, hand-crafted brick oven is the center point of the open kitchen and maintains a temperature of 900 plus degrees that bakes pizzas in an unbelievably quick 90 seconds.
The Mood: Taking advantage of the unique space, the restaurant's décor is a pleasing mix of old and new. A rustic country banquet table sits in stark contrast to a set of streamlined Aluminum GoodForm chairs. Midcentury design classic Eames shell chairs make up the rest of the seating while large automotive-themed paintings by Detroit artist Camilo Pardo adorn the walls. The two-story dining space features enormous industrial windows that bathe the restaurant in natural light during the day and provide nighttime views of downtown Royal Oak during the evening. At night, the dining space is illuminated by three large modern light fixtures and dozens of retro globe string lights. The bar area is small but efficiently designed and has a cozy feel. It provides access to the patio area, open during the Michigan summer.
The Food: The pizzeria derives its name from the traditional Italian starter yeast that supplies the base to every pizza it serves. The natural biga fermentation uses no commercial yeast and no sugar. The traditional Neapolitan-style dough and oven, work in perfect harmony to produce a crust that is thin, crispy, light and flavorful. The pizza's crust is accentuated by a bevy of hand-crafted toppings. Every vegetable topping is wood roasted on site; buffalo mozzarella adorns the classic Margherita Pizza ($12.50, $8.50 carry out) and the Bacco Sausage Pizza ($12.50, $8.50 carry out) features hormone- and nitrate-free sausage that is hand crafted at the restaurant.
In addition to pizza, Pizzeria Biga offers a full lineup of salads, appetizers and entrees. Highlights include the Navel Orange salad ($4.95 small /$8.95), the classic meatball small plate appetizer ($7.50) and deserts like the refreshing Gelato. The homemade frozen treat has an authentic taste utilizing milk from Northville’s Guernsey Farms Dairy.
The Drinks: With a few months of operation under his belt, Del Signore and his team have begun to tailor the Royal Oak store to its customers. Head bartender Adrianne Martin has created a craft cocktail menu utilizing Italian liquors not typically found elsewhere. Martin showed off her innovation when she created a new cocktail for my visit. Her “Late Night Rifle” concoction featured herb-infused Italian bitter Ramazzotti Amaro with Cherry Heering, lime and strawberry. A wine list of Italian classics and select domestic choices combines with 24 craft beers tap handles to round out the spirits menu.
Insider’s Tip: This kitchen recently began serving breakfast classics with a Neapolitan twist on Saturdays and Sundays. The request of their Royal Oak patrons fits in with Del Signore’s plan to “tailor fit each Biga to its environment” and “give the market what it wants.”
The Verdict: Much like the flavorful crust of their pizzas, Del Signore’s vision takes a solid base and builds on it. This has helped the metro Detroit pizzeria to become a fixture of the Royal Oak dining scene.