In the very near future, Catalpa and Main will become the intersection of the fates of two local businessmen whose lives have been shaped by the pizza business.
One of the pie makers is Mike Ilitch, the founder of pizza giant Little Caesars. As successful as his empire is, not every franchise has been able to survive in the highly competitive market. The carryout business at 112 Catalpa is an example of one of them, shutting its doors more than a year ago.
That is where the other "pizza" guy steps in.
Odds are you've never heard of Carl "Buddy" Orlando, a 47-year-old Berkley resident. More than 35 years ago, his father took over Maria's Pizzeria on Grand River on the west side of Detroit in Rosedale Park. In a few short years, Carl Orlando Sr. took the business from an unassuming neighborhood pizza carryout to a destination Italian eatery. While pizza and garlic bread were the act that sold the tickets, customers had the option of ordering dishes such as spiedini alla Maria and veal picante.
Eventually, the Orlandos made the decision to move to Oakland County. After a few short-lived locations, they settled in on West Nine Mile in Ferndale where the family operated Maria's Front Room for 15 years. The Ferndale restaurant was named in homage to the most popular of the three dining rooms at the family's previous Grand River location. After Carl Sr. and his wife, Joanie, died, Carl Jr. moved on, selling the business to David M. Brown in 2008.
The younger Orlando took a sabbatical from the demands of running his own place, working brief tenures in other restaurateurs’ kitchens. Now, three years later, he has leased the Catalpa location to resurrect his family's culinary tradition — and give neighbors an alternative to dining in the bustling downtown area.
Nearby Royal Oak resident Melissa Williamson is looking forward the new, as yet unnamed, establishment. "I'm definitely excited to have a new place in the neighborhood. New businesses opening up in this area helps the local economy."
Orlando said he plans to apply for a license to sell house-created wines after the business is settled in.
Williamson is in favor of that plan. "Wine goes hand in hand with an Italian eatery," she said. "It adds to the authenticity."
The current opening date is set for the first week of 2012, though Orlando may throw some preview parties during the holiday season. “I’m going to recreate the atmosphere of the Grand River location — and try to recreate the prices,” he said.
“It's going to be a New York-style Italian restaurant — homemade, comfortable for families, but still romantic."