One of Ferndale’s restaurant icons rejoins the city’s downtown dining scene this weekend. Como’s, which closed in 2017, is preparing for a new beginning with different owners, a refreshed look, and an updated menu featuring square Detroit-style pizza and soft serve ice cream.
Peas & Carrots Hospitality, whose team includes chef Zack Sklar, Jim Bellinson, and Josh Humphrey, is behind Como’s comeback. The restaurant’s reputation was tarnished when it was closed by county inspectors for repeatedly failing its health inspections. The Grego family, which had operated the Italian anchor on Nine Mile Road since the 1960s, eventually parted ways with the business for $3 million. Under the new stewardship of Peas & Carrots, the restaurant underwent a complete renovation including gutting the kitchen and dining room. Very little is left of the original restaurant beyond the signage and terracotta arabica tile floor.
Sklar admired the community of Ferndale for a long time and wanted to be part of it, so when Como’s hit the market he was immediately attracted to the property on a buzzing corner of Woodward Avenue. “The location is phenomenal,” he says. “I think it’s the best location in Ferndale. I think it has one of the greatest patios in Oakland County.” While restaurateurs might have been skittish about rebooting an established restaurant associated with some unfortunate cleanliness issues, Sklar says he felt empowered by his personal track record of updating classics. “I have some experience taking over institutions,” he says. “I like keeping the name and the nostalgia.” In 2014, Peas & Carrots took over Bloomfield Hills dining stalwart Beau Jack’s and transformed it into a more contemporary restaurant called Beau’s. Like Como’s, Beau Jack’s “had some similar good and bad connotations,” Sklar says. “There are definitely some things that you have to overcome.”
Sklar and assistant Ramza Saruna took the lead on the redesign of the restaurant, which features an updated facade and interior walls with sawed off bricks. The 100-seat dining room has a classic, throwback appearance with wood paneling and mid-century style ceiling tiles. Towards the back of the space is a bar made from Douglas fir and surrounded by five custom banker’s chair bar stools. Pops of vibrant blue in the chairs and book-lined walls as well as the generous use of potted plants, however, roots the restaurant firmly in the present. The expansive patio, meanwhile, is getting a 1980s, Miami Beach makeover. Look out for that space to open within the next three weeks.
As with the building, Como’s menu also received a gut renovation. The restaurant now serves chef Sklar’s take on Detroit-style pizza. While Sklar say he admires the steel pan-baked pizzas from Buddy’s, Jet’s, and Loui’s, his version shares more in common with the trendy squares that have taken off at restaurants around the country.
The focaccia-like crust at Como’s is made with a sourdough starter that’s fermented for three days before it hits the oven. Sklar is also particularly proud of his gluten-free crust, which he says he worked on extensively to find the ideal texture. It uses a special flour blend from Italy and has a crispy base that’s still flavorful. The pizzas get a helping of the chef’s own recipe for red sauce made with Californian and Italian tomatoes. The pepperonis are cut by hand, which gives the pizzas a bit of irregularity — something Sklar says he prefers. Each of them gets a crumble of grana padano cheese, which sweats rather than melts on top of the slices. The whole crispy-cornered pizza is served on a metal tray with a cooling rack.
Elsewhere on the menu, customers can find options like brick chicken, baked spaghetti, Indian-spiced spinach dip, and meatballs. For dessert, there’s a selection of soft serve as well as items like key lime pie and several flavors of Italian budino custard.
Como’s is set to open for semi-public, by-reservation seatings on Friday, May 3 and Saturday, May 4 ahead of its full opening on Monday. Take a look around the refurbished Ferndale pizzeria in the gallery below.
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• Renovated Como’s Restaurant Aims to Bring Detroit-Style Pizza to Ferndale This Spring [ED]
• Como’s Restaurant Has Finally Found a Buyer [ED]
• Metro Detroit Restaurant Group Dropped Millions to Buy Como’s Building [ED]
• All Como’s Coverage [ED]
• All Eater Inside Coverage [ED]