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Fresco Wood Oven Pizzeria - Rochester Hills, MI

On a different pizza topic, jjspw briefly introduced a new pizza place—Fresco Wood Oven Pizzeria, across from Crittenton Hospital in Rochester. See jjspw’s 11/27 post at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7227....

jjspw's description was just too tempting, so I had to rush up there today. While I’m looking forward to jjspw supplying additional background on the place, I think I may know why her original post didn’t provide an in-depth picture. The pleasant young owner is a person of few words about himself. Or, as the ladies might fondly say, he is “the strong, silent type.”

In any event, the sketchy info I got from this first-time owner was that Fresco opened four months ago. He is from a New York pizzeria family, but also has “studied the subject in the San Francisco Bay Area.” SF North Beach, Berkeley’s Chez Panisse, California Culinary Acadamy, etc.? I do not know, and did not feel invited to ask.

Anyway, this is a casual counter service place. Maybe a cut above in atmosphere to Birmingham’s Brooklyn Pizza, but smaller. However, their wood burning oven is impressive to view, and their TV is nice.

I have only three grades for pizza— 1. fantastic, 2. okay in a pinch, and 3. unmentionable. To me, Fresco is one of fewer than ten pizzerias in Metro Detroit which rate as fantastic. jjspw was even more precisely partial in her accolades. I’ll leave it to jjspw to “duke it out” with others over the area’s final rankings. But, I will go so far as to guarantee that NO customer will be unimpressed by this pizza.

I’m not a New Yorker, but if you will pardon me, I’ll attempt to describe the crust as “New York style.” Very good. Fresco also makes their own hero sandwich bread, and it looks “over the top.” The sauce is very complimentary to the rest of the pizza (jjspw goes even a step further). And, this is a “meats” kind of place. Thus, there is homemade sausage, prosciutto, meatballs, QUALITY pepperoni, etc.. (Where’s the pancetta?). The cheese on their website pictures looks great, but the cheese I had on Today’s Special was not too remarkable. Just good.

This place has a nice vibe, and the hard-working nursing professionals from across the street apparently have the decency to not wear their contaminated scrubs into the establishment. (wish I could say the same for the nearby Kroger grocery store).

Yup, this is a “must visit,” for area pizza fanatics. No deliveries. But, here’s the great news---this tiny place has been approved for a beer and wine license! Maybe you Oakland County Republicans are actually genuine about wanting to get government off our backs? In any event, quality MI microbrews as well as Italian beers and industrial swill, in addition to wines (details TBD), all will be on offer within two weeks. See you there Sir Boagman! Oh, and thanks jjspw, for yet another awesome lead.

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Brooklyn Pizza
111 Henrietta St, Birmingham, MI 48009

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  1. Too weird. Donna and I were at the Pei-Wei in that same plaza tonight, and Donna asked me if I knew anything about the very place you're talking about. Was it better than Biga then, I take it?

    1 Reply
    1. re: boagman

      Hi, For me, I say both are "must try's."
      Each is well worthwhile in its own way.
      (same general idea, though)
      :-)

    2. Hey, VTB, I'm so glad Fresco turned out to be a winner for you. Your review here is pretty much identical to what my review of the place would be! :-)

      Regarding the owner's background: There's a Freep or Detroit News (or some other newspaper) feature on him posted next to the register. It mentions that he played basketball for U of Detroit, then spent a few years playing professionally in Europe. His pizzas are modeled after those he enjoyed while living in Europe.

      ...Which is a good segue into: The pizzas aren't necessarily "New York style", but more of a traditional, rustic Italian style. Very much like Pizzeria Biga. Both are aiming for that more traditional pie with high quality ingredients (San Marzano tomatoes, homemade meats, etc.) -- I'd say the differences between Fresco and Biga is (1) price, and (2) Biga has a more fine/upscale/bar atmosphere, whereas Fresco is more homey. I'd take kids to Fresco, not to Biga.

      Really good stuff. At present, it's my top pizza place in Detroit, and I'd even venture to say it's one of my favorite pizzas I've had anywhere.

      14 Replies
      1. re: jjspw

        Forgot to mention that I asked him about doing an egg pizza. He said he's thinking about it, but from his tone, it doesn't seem like he thinks it's something that would sell. So if any of you are into that, please suggest it to him -- maybe the more he hears that suggestion, the more likely he'll add it to his menu!

        1. re: jjspw

          I think if you take an egg with you and are willing to sponsor the outcome, you can have whatever you would like. Likely, no eggs in the house. Make the move!

        2. re: jjspw

          jjspw, Thank you for correcting me. Although I've bought or made 500 pizzas in my life, I've had all of zero pizzas in NY and all of but one in Italy.

          What I meant to convey is that they don't offer non-traditional, California-style toppings, nor are they a Detroit style place; further, their cheese dissuaded me from characterizing them as Italian style. (but, that all was too much of a mouthful)

          The place is so small that I'm hoping it doesn't build up a clientele of uncool people, since diners will be situated elbow-to-elbow. I don't want to be sitting there enjoying a nice pie with a (soon-to-be-served) chianti, and then have the whole vibe blown by some big mouth, wearing oversized jewelry and a sports jersey, situated just thirteen inches away from my ear.

          But, why be pessimistic? Time to plan my next visit....

          PS--I'm for eggs on sandwiches and on rice, but I'm not an egg on pizza guy. You'll have to recruit JanPrimus for your scheme.

          1. re: vtombrown

            Why me? I am not the eggman...g'goo goo g'joob

            1. re: JanPrimus

              Ah, the world needs more egg pizza lovers! ;-)

              VTB, hope you didn't take my "correcting you" the wrong way. Wasn't trying to act like a know-it-all.

              As for the elbow-to-elbow thing.. I worry about that too. But Fresco's location is quite inconvenient for anyone who doesn't live/work in the northern 'burbs -- that alone will probably dissuade a lot of people. Also, consider that the obnoxious, big jersey-wearing, loud-mouths are the ones who think that Buddy's/Shield's/Papalis is the ONLY real kind of pizza and would therefore never bother with a place like Fresco. ;-)

              1. re: jjspw

                Definitely don't mind! I like to learn. I'm now convinced you guys are right about the Italian style; and, regardless, feedback always is more enjoyable than silence, once I've gone to the effort of typing a report (when I instead could have been doing something more healthy such as exercising....). Of course, I shouldn't feel too guilty about not maximizing my healthy living---goatgolfer can pound a whole pizza in one lunch sitting!

                1. re: vtombrown

                  I did want to insert that Rochester Hills boasts its own Crust pizza on Rochester road. Very authentic Italian style with an outstanding wine-by-the-glass selection and very spacious and modern. Pizza's pretty good too.

                  1. re: vtombrown

                    I had them cut it into four pieces. No way I could eat eight! ;-))

                    1. re: vtombrown

                      vtb
                      If you want to know what a NY pizza is like, the closest I've seen in MI is:
                      My Cousin's New York Pizzeria
                      42967 Woodward Avenue

                      If you want New Haven CT style pizza, Tomatoes Apizza is the place.
                      Hope this helps.

                      I real ywant to try Fresco now.

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                      Tomatoes Apizza
                      29275 14 Mile Road, Farmington Hills, MI

                      New York Pizzeria Restaurant
                      498 E Main St, Trotwood, OH 45426

                      1. re: Markcron

                        I shall get over to My Cousin's NY Pizzeria. Thank you
                        (already am a big Tomatoes Apizza fan)

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                        Tomatoes Apizza
                        29275 14 Mile Road, Farmington Hills, MI

                        1. re: vtombrown

                          I heard that MCNYP had changed ownership, maybe 8 months to a year ago. I haven't been there since before the supposed change. Markcron, can you confirm? Has the pizza taste/quality changed?

                          I enjoyed MCNYP's pizza quite a bit -- but I also don't feel right saying too much about it, as it's been at least 2 years since I was there.

                          1. re: jjspw

                            MCNYP changed hands last year some time. The new owner, Rose, still does things right over there, and they still make the pizza as good as it was before. I stop in there at least once a month, if not more.

                            1. re: GrueLurks

                              Okay GL, sounds like I should stay on track for trying this place.

                              By the way, with the background you've recently provided, I think I can forecast your dinner menu on any given day, with roughly 20% accuracy, which is remarkable...

                              Guessing pork butts or pizza just about gets me to the number. :-)

                              1. re: vtombrown

                                I'm down to one pork butt a week now. :-)

            2. Went for lunch today. The owner was working out the bar arrangement with the architect. It should be interesting with wine. The margahrita pizza was very authentic (based on Forenzi experience) and at $8.5 was good value.

              2 Replies
              1. re: goatgolfer

                Cool goatgolfer! So, the cheese was up to snuff? Did you pound the whole darn pie in one lunch sitting?

                1. re: vtombrown

                  The cheese was very original and well cooked. Not a scrap to be seen when leaving with a smile. When the owner was clearing my pizza pan, barely a word but a nice thank you.

              2. I had a half of a pepperoni pizza (split with two co-workers) and a side of meatballs for lunch today from here. Great pie, very glad they are somewhat close to work to get my NY style pizza fix easily. Chatted with the owner for a few minutes, a pleasant enough fellow, who obviously takes great pride in his craft. The meatballs were very tasty, though a bit pricey at $4 for 3 of them, they could have been a tad bit bigger, or a buck cheaper, but it is Rochester and rent must be paid. A bunch of us from the office are planning a dine-in lunch next week.

                1 Reply
                1. re: GrueLurks

                  There was a coupon in yesterdays Det News and Free Press for buy 1 get 1 half off. It might be online too, but haven't checked.

                2. So glad to see this thread! I tried this place as well a few months ago and was very impressed. I've been dying to get a place like this up here. We are big Tomatoes Apizza lovers, but it is kind of a drive for us, and while I've tried Crust and liked it, it seemed sort of expensive. I'm not sure why I haven't been back-just been busy, I guess. It's great!

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                  Tomatoes Apizza
                  29275 14 Mile Road, Farmington Hills, MI

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: IndyGirl

                    If you look at the pizza picture on the Fresco's website, you'll be on your way to try one. It worked for me. It's some of the best pizza to be found, assuming this style of pizza appeals to you. I found the owner and the pizzaiolo to be friendly and eager to get customer feedback, in mycase, all complimentary.
                    Another local pie' worthy of note is served at New York City Pizza in Troy on the Southeast corner of Maple and Coolidge. This is New York pie, the kind you fold over, the way you'll find folks in the Big Apple eating it while walking down the street. Amr , the owner, knows what he's doing. Since opening a few months ago, he has improved the pizza, responding to customers' suggestions, reading books, articles, websites; everything he can find on the subject. Slices are always available.

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                    Big Apple Restaurant
                    4750 W Walton Blvd, Waterford, MI 48329

                    City Pizza
                    3432 Rhodes Ave, New Boston, OH 45662

                    1. re: jcbroder

                      I just returned to Fresco Wood Oven Pizzeria Friday with a friend. She had the margherita pizza (ordered as regular margherita but the server made a mistake and added pepperoni--which was no problem, as my friend likes pepperoni. She said that it was excellent pepperoni!). I had the four cheese.
                      Both of us found the crust to be outstanding--just thin enough, and very crispy/chewy. The tomato sauce was bright and fresh-tasting. The cheese was also excellent. I will return here many times!!

                      The server was very attentive as well (though we did come in the middle of the afternoon, when we were the only people in the place). They did just add wine and beer options; I didn't really peruse the options, but it will be a draw for many people, I'm sure. A very pleasant visit!