Ferndale has a new destination restaurant. The space — with a ceiling that soars 26 feet above the faux cobblestone floor, light from festival-like strings of open-filiment bulbs, gigantic murals, and communal seating at picnic-style tables — might make it seem like a place that doesn’t take food seriously. Not so.
Despite its size — 170 seats not counting those at the sidewalk café — the thin-crusted Neapolitan pizzas with their fresh toppings, the colorful pasta dishes and nicely edited entrée selection, plus the pristine glassware (more about that later) — put it on the map as a real restaurant, not simply a party place.
Pizzas emerge from the open kitchen at the back of the room in record time thanks to the 1,000-degree oven from Italy, and they are notable, judging from the version sampled. It was topped with pepperoni, garlic, jalapeno peppers, tomatoes and two cheeses, Parmesan and mozzarella, and appropriately named the “Spicy.” The crust is notable. Other varieties include salami, onions and arugula, or clams, pancetta, onions and olive oil — among 12 choices that headline the paper place mat menus.
The pizza dough also is used for the bread that comes with the appetizers, a list of such classics as prosciutto and melon, garlic shrimp, grilled calamari, and burrata and prosciutto, and nothing from left field. Pop’s adheres to its Italian roots and doesn’t even attempt to toss in false notes. Relax. You won’t find kale in the chopped Italian salad or poutine cozying up to the meatballs.
Other dishes include such handmade pastas as gnocchi with sausage, linguini with clams and fettucine Alfredo as well as sharable appetizers. The entrée list is pared down to just five, including a bone-in filet at the top of the price scale, chicken Parmesan and whole roasted branzino.
The U-shaped white marble-topped bar in the enter of the room houses an elaborate Coravin wine system that allows wine to be poured without opening the bottles, and the wine options are extensive. Pours include one and a half ounce, three-ounce and five-ounce portions from the Couravin, as well as less expensive Italian keg wines — literally served from kegs under the bar — by the glass or the 25-ounce carafe. Remember carafes?
Service by a staff in black-and-white checked shirts is friendly, efficient and shows the training by restaurant pro Beth Hussey, one of the principals in the Kramer Restaurant Group (One-Eyed Betty’s, Daily Dinette, etc.).
Now, about that glassware. Each wine is served in the correct size and shape of beautifully thin wine glasses, all from German glassmaker Riedel (it rhymes with needle) and, yes, the glassware does make a difference. It also makes the staff keenly aware that it should be handled with care.
This is one to put on the must-try list.
280 W. Nine Mile, Ferndale
Call: (248) 268-4806
Hours: 4-11 p.m. Tues.-Thurs. and Sun. Closed Mon.
Prices: Appetizers $8-$15, soups and salads $5-$14, pizzas $10-$15, pasta $12-$14, entrees, including salad, $15-$44, desserts $5-$7.
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar with an emphasis on wine
Noise level: Moderate
Parking: Municipal lot in rear
Wheelchair access: No barriers
What the ratings mean
★ — routine
★★ — good
★★1/2 — very good
★★★ — excellent
★★★★ — outstanding