Twenty-two years ago chef Luciano DelSignore opened Bacco Ristorante and the Italian restaurant has gone on to influence a generation of some of metro Detroit’s most celebrated chefs. On Wednesday, January 24, DelSignore announced that he will close the Southfield dining destination, according to release. The final day for service will be Saturday, March 23, 2024.
A reason for the closure was not specified in the announcement, but in an email to the Freep, Del Signore said that he wanted to make time for “exciting new projects.”
“I believe that everything in life has a natural conclusion and a lifecycle that can give you an opportunity as a stepping stone to continually improve, reinvent and develop even greater concepts,” DelSignore told the daily.
Indeed, DelSignore and Bacco have been credited by some of the most critically acclaimed chefs in metro Detroit as the forbearers of the region’s evolving dining scene. Among notable chefs who’ve been influenced by DelSignore’s leadership: James Rigato of the acclaimed Mabel Gray and Anthony Lombardo of SheWolf, as well as Doug Hewitt of Freya and Chartreuse Kitchen and Cocktails. On Wednesday, Hewitt was recognized as a Beard semifinalist for Best Chef in the Great Lakes region. Rigato and Lombardo were semifinalists in prior years.
“Bacco has served as a destination for cooks, chefs, and customers alike over its decades-long run. Chef Luciano built his career serving southeast Michigan and beyond,” Rigato told Eater Detroit in a message. “Bacco is on the resume of dozens of Metro Detroit food and beverage leaders and will be remembered as a legendary restaurant that paved the way for an era of industry professionals, especially chef owners. I will look back at the time I spent cooking and dining at Bacco fondly, but am very excited to see what Luciano has planned for us next.”
Rigato tells Eater Detroit that Bacco was wildly popular in the early 2000s, back when he was freshly graduated from culinary school at School Craft College and went on to hold stints for several years working in fine dining establishments throughout the region, including at Bacco. The local restaurant scene was still years away from receiving the type of national recognition that the region is increasingly enjoying today.
Although Hewitt didn’t work at Bacco, he says that DelSignore has opened his kitchen up to him and other chefs numerous times over the years, helping to pave the way for young talents to further their culinary ambitions.
“There has always been these pinnacle restaurants in these different neighborhoods of Detroit, that have sort of set the standard. I believe Bacco was that for that area of metro Detroit,” says Hewitt. “I’ve dined there with James [Rigato] and other chefs and my wife a million times, and it’s kind of like coming home, [it’s] just welcoming and has such warmth.”
For his part, DelSignore says he feels incredibly grateful to know that Bacco has played a pivotal role in shaping the success of many chefs’ careers.
“Having an influence on the region’s dining scene is a source of great pride and fulfillment,” he says in an email response to Eater Detroit.
DelSignore was the subject of the 2017 Freep documentary, Dinner in Abruzzo: A Journey Home With My Culinary Godfather, directed by then-Free Press restaurant critic Mark Kurlyandchik. The film followed DelSignore, who grew up spending summers in the region at his grandparents’ farm, and his mentee, Rigato, who is Italian American but who up until that point, had never traveled to Italy.
Casa Pernoi and Bigalora, both owned by DelSignore, will continue to operate. Plans for whatever DelSignore has in store next have not yet been revealed, but in his email response, the chef had this to say: “[my] journey for curating authentic Italian cuisine and hospitality [through] culinary lifestyle experiences has an exciting roadmap ahead. When the right moment arrives, [I] will enthusiastically unveil the exciting new plans ahead.”
Update: January 25, 2023, 10:15 a.m.: This article was updated to include comments from Luciano DelSignore.