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Posted on Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 5:55 a.m.

Wood-fired pizza restaurant Mani Osteria & Bar set to open by April in downtown Ann Arbor

By Paula Gardner


Adam Baru, an Ann Arbor native, returned to the city from the East Coast to open Mani Osteria & Bar at the corner of East Liberty and South Division. The wood-fired pizza restaurant should be open by mid-April.

Lon Horwedel |

An Ann Arbor native who’s worked on the marketing end of several renowned East Coast restaurants is converting a downtown Ann Arbor storefront into his first eatery.

Adam Baru will open Mani Osteria & Bar at 341 E. Liberty this spring, after extensive renovations.

The restaurant will mirror the East Coast trend toward small pizzerias, but with a twist: It will have two wood-fired pizza ovens creating the centerpiece product.

“Some wonderful restaurants have opened,” Baru said. “I just thought (they were) fantastic.”

The location is known to longtime Ann Arbor residents as the former Handicraft Furniture building at the northwest corner of South Division.

More recently, the building has been used for upper-level offices and lower-level retail space, such as the Ragstock clothing store that opened in 2010.

Baru is excited about his concept, which builds a small-plate and casual dining experience around the two large wood-fired ovens that will dominate the back of the restaurant and cook with 900-degree heat.

He’s also excited about the location: “I knew if I came back to Ann Arbor, I wanted to be downtown,” he said.

But he soon found that the evolving “midtown” location offered a newer option in an area that hadn’t always welcomed smaller retailers or restaurants. That’s changed due to new construction in the area — like Sterling 4 Eleven Lofts at East Washington — and the repositioning of the former TCF Bank building into McKinley Towne Center.

Also encouraging retail and pedestrian growth along South Division are recent streetscape improvements by the Downtown Development Authority.

The result is a corner location in a building where extending the windows by 20 feet along South Division will dramatically change the interior into the type of restaurant Baru envisioned.

“The windows here are fantastic,” Baru said. “They’re the first thing that struck me about this building.

“… When people are dining inside, I want them to feel like they’re almost outside. And people outside can feel what’s going on in the restaurant.”

The interior space most recently was used as a furniture rental showroom, with a 3-foot sunken floor along the front and side.

The interior conversion will include a bar area with seating for 10 to 12. The short staircase will step up to a dining room with seating for about 75, then the ovens — along with what Baru is calling a “pizza counter” — will line the rear of the public space. Food prep areas also will allow diners to watch the process, and there also will be a small, semi-private dining area.

Interior construction is under way as all of the mechanical and plumbing needs for a restaurant space are installed. Drywall is next, while the ovens’ arrival from their California manufacturer was slowed by last week’s winter weather.

“We’re in that period of time when you don’t see a lot happening — but you know a lot is happening,” Baru said.

The ovens represent the heart of the restaurant, dominating both the look and the menu with what Baru calls “big mouths of roaring flames.”

The staff will use hardwoods to fire them, and Baru and his chefs — Chef Arthur Cavaliere and Brendan McCall, chef de cuisine and a veteran of local kitchens — are still fine-tuning the menu, which will locally source many ingredients.

Using open flame to cook pizza results in a unique taste, Baru said, and the rest of the menu has “expanded and gotten a little more ambitious” beyond pizza. Pasta, mussels, and meatballs are examples.

“It’s really a full menu,” Baru said. Pricing should range from about $10 for an individual pizza to $15 for a specialty version.

Hiring should start by the end of the month, and he’s hoping construction will be done in March, allowing a mid-April opening.

The name comes from the Italian word for “hands” or “hand-made,” and an osteria is an Italian tavern.

Baru spent eight years working on the marketing end of restaurants, including for Morimoto of "Iron Chef" fame. Most recently, he was in Philadelphia. He grew up in Ann Arbor, and was ready to move his wife and their toddler back to the city where his parents still live as he realized he was ready to pursue his dream of opening his own establishment.

“This has been an incredible experience to go through,” Baru said. “I’ve opened restaurants before, but I’ve never been so involved in this piece of building it.”

Paula Gardner is Business News Director of Contact her at 734-623-2586 or by e-mail. Sign up for the weekly Business Review newsletter, distributed every Thursday, here.



Fri, May 20, 2011 : 4:21 a.m.

Just left Mani Osteria and LOVED IT! I had a wonderful experience both in the food and the atmosphere. Adam Baru personally came over to our table and we talked about how we read this article and were so excited to try out the restaurant. The pasta is amazzzzzzzing. The pizza was more complex and oh so delicious. You can tell a lot of detail went into this place and I must speak for AA when I say we are very lucky to welcome Mani Osteria.


Wed, Feb 16, 2011 : 7:02 p.m.

@Arboriginal: There are other places that offer amazing vegan pizza options, such as Silvio's, WholeFoods, and Jolly Pumpkin. NYPD will make a vegan crust, too. So if veganism and cats? offend you and Mr. Baru isn't interested in offering this, we offending people have other places to go. ;) I really think it would be easy to offer this though, and we would love and appreciate it!

Tom Teague

Thu, Feb 10, 2011 : 8:49 p.m.

Sounds great; the team has impressive chops in the restaurant business and should do well. Will it have a liquor license?

Michael O

Thu, Feb 10, 2011 : 5:37 a.m.

del rio's whole wheat pizza was way ahead of it's time...and I've yet to taste a pizza so delicious.My god,it was would keep eating until it was gone.


Thu, Feb 10, 2011 : 12:45 a.m.

Dear Mr. Baru - please offer a vegan pizza option or options! We'll definitely be there if you do. :) We moved here from Brooklyn where we loved getting vegan "slices" and currently live in Sloan Plaza, around the corner from your new location. Best wishes for success!!!


Thu, Feb 10, 2011 : midnight

exciting news...downtown needs a good pizzeria bar, hopefully its similar to the thin crust style like silvios


Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 10:01 p.m.

Always excited to hear of new places opening up! It's so important to support local business. Plus this place sounds great - a tasty addition to the area! Can't wait to try it!


Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 9:39 p.m.

Cottage Inn on William discontinued using their brick oven many years ago - it kept starting fires in the chimney. Unless something has changed more recently, it is strictly for show. I haven't been there in several years, so they could have reworked it, but as I recall the fire marshall shut it down, and the cost to redo it was prohibitive.

Bertha Venation

Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 9:20 p.m.

Best of luch to Adam & Co. I also miss Bimbos. Can't wait to try it!


Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 7:18 p.m.

I wish him luck but restuarants are always risky. High rent district, high cost to renovate, high energy costs, increasing prices of commodities and many dining options. Let's hope he has some fat investors to ride out the bumps.

John B.

Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 7:50 p.m.

That's why you have to do really-high-gross-profit-margin products in the food biz (and others) these days, and pretty much nothing else (if you want to survive). It used to be that 50-66% gross margin was OK, but now you gotta look for more like 75-90% gross. I like the idea of this new restaurant, but at ten bucks for an individual pizza, it may be a tough sell in the current economic environment.


Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 6:09 p.m.

This is a very exciting addition to Ann Arbor. I know I will be there to try it out as soon as it is open!


Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 5:32 p.m.

I really have high hopes for this place and am excited about the location as well. I have not found a good pizza joint in town and am thrilled to hear about Mani 'O. By the way, don't be fooled: California Pizza Kitchen switched most of their wood burning stoves to gas! Let's just agree that CPK is crap and move on. I haven't been to Silvio's so I'll have to try it this week. Good luck Adam.


Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 5:04 p.m.

With Brendan McCall in the kitchen, trust me: this won't be just another pizza place using a wood-fired oven like Cottage Inn or California Pizza Kitchen as someone suggests above. Brendan's a creative guy. This will be exciting, whatever he does with it. And if you see something involving duck on the menu, try it; he's a wizard with duck.

Top Cat

Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 4:14 p.m.

I hope they have a wide selection of Michigan craft beers available.

rusty shackelford

Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 4:16 p.m.

Ann Arbor needs a good Founders outlet!


Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 3:48 p.m.

My family went to a great place in Portland, ME over the past summer. It's actually a small predominantly East Coast based chain called &quot;Flatbreads&quot;and it was great. This sounds like it will be a a welcome new twist on the large pizza scene we have here in A2 now..... Flatbreads concept: Woodfired pizzas.... <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 3:39 p.m.

It would be nice if it was different in some way from the Cottage Inn or California Pizza Kitchen who are already doing wood fired stuff. Cottage Inn Cafe on Washtenaw was the first to bring wood fired oven to the Ann Arbor area. They used it as a focal point back in the 80's and 90's. I wish Baru well and look forward to his pizza.


Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 3:39 p.m.

This sounds great. There are obviously a ton of pizza options in Ann Arbor. The thing is, not that many of them are very good. Even fewer of them are creative in any way. I agree with Bill.... Silvio's is an outstanding option, but such places are few and far between. I have high hopes for Mani Osteria and look forward to its opening.

rusty shackelford

Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 4:15 p.m.

Also, the service at Silvio's is atrocious. The food is amazing, but the service could be described as &quot;laughably bad,&quot; if it weren't so frustrating.


Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 3:09 p.m.

@timjbd, Thano's Lamplighter was better. For a fantastic Pizza, check out Silvio's Organic Pizza on North University. It is also family owned, just like Thano's was at the Pizza is insanely good. If don't like chain restaurants, don't eat at them.


Thu, Feb 10, 2011 : 3:42 a.m.

Thanks Bill. I have not tried their pizza yet but that's a strong recommendation so I'll make a point of it. The best pizza I've had in Ann Arbor in recent history was from (I think it was called) New York Pizza- next to White's Market. They had a stand out front for Art Fair and I bought a slice of triple mushroom that was fantabulous. Now it's gone, I think.


Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 2:56 p.m.

Awesome! The last time I had a wood-fired pizza was in Trieste, Italy about 15 years ago. Good luck and best wishes to Adam Baru and his staff. I can't wait for this to open.

Jeff Renner

Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 2:55 p.m.

Congratulations, Adam, and welcome back to Ann Arbor. Sounds wonderful. I'm looking forward to what sounds like a great addition to the local food scene.

Jessica Webster

Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 2:54 p.m.

I'm pretty excited about this!!

Myra Klarman

Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 2:18 p.m.

Very happy for the Barus. And congrats to chef Brendan McCall.


Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 2:06 p.m.

&quot;More Pizza and Burger joints. Just what we need in a town like Ann Arbor.&quot; Bill, Any locally-owned business that can take diners away from national chains like Craparoni Grill or Olive Loaf is positive. If you lament the number of restaurants in Ann Arbor, you might spend your energy, instead, trying to get people to shop locally (USA-made) rather than celebrating a new Costco or Dick's Sporting Goods. People don't seem to get the connection between shopping at big box stores and the state of the economy in Michigan. The equation is pretty simple to understand, though. You just need to look. Furthermore, there has not been a good pizzeria down there since Thanos and Bimbo's left. I really miss Bimbo's, man.


Thu, Feb 10, 2011 : 3:34 a.m.

Bill, There is Google, Herb David Guitar Studio, King's Chosen Furniture, Michigan Theater, Ayla Clothing, Sam's Surplus, Kilwan's Chocolates, Downtown Home and Garden, Moe Sporting Goods, Moose Jaw Outfitters, Bivouac, Crazy Wisdom Books, Vogel's Hardware, Middle Earth, Ulrich's Book Store, Ann Arbor State Bank and on and on. What kind of substance are you looking for? There are ton's of other active businesses. There will be as many restaurants as there is demand for them. No more.

rusty shackelford

Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 6:37 p.m.

&quot;lovaduck,&quot; --is it any mystery that pizza is popular in a college town? I for one think this is a take on things that we don't have around here. I mean you could say of Pacific Rim, &quot;oh, seafood, can't someone do something original?&quot; of Jolly Pumpkin, &quot;c'mon, another brew pub with local food?&quot; Or some similar gripe for virtually all restaurants. Plus, isn't anything better than an empty storefront?


Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 5:34 p.m.

I agree but the issue of Costco , and bad chains is irrelevant to Bill's point. Do we need more PIZZA, even if locally made? Couldn't someone be more inventive? The rest is a red herring argument (not that I disagree with you on chains, but it isn't to the point).

rusty shackelford

Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 3:38 p.m.

Bill, increased density downtown would help create more demand for 'everyday' businesses, as opposed to 'destination' businesses. However, I know many are vehemently opposed to increasing density...


Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 3:11 p.m.

Locally owned is one thing, diversity of stores is another. All these eateries leave me hungry for substance.


Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 1:27 p.m.

That building has been a terrible eye-sore for will be nice to have a new presence/look to the space + we're always game for a new take on 'za (esp. East-Coast style...mmm)

rusty shackelford

Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 1:27 p.m.

Looks quite promising. Good luck! Can't wait to try it.


Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 1:22 p.m.

More Pizza and Burger joints. Just what we need in a town like Ann Arbor. Nevermind, he'll be across the street from Seva, another restaurant? Oh geez! No wonder Ashley Terrace, Heritage Place, and Village whatever are being pushed through... you need the bodies to fill these restaurants; it is all inter-related!


Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 5:32 p.m.

Boy do I agree. My first thought---even if it's good, do we really need another pizza restaurant in Ann Arbor? I'm all for locally owned restaurants, but wood-fired pizza is a cliche. Yes, it's better than chain pizza, but why all the pizza? Couldn't someone be more inventive?


Wed, Feb 9, 2011 : 12:56 p.m.

This looks like a good addition to the AA restaurant scene. Good luck!