Italian restaurant with indoor bocce courts planned in Howell

Restaurateur Peter Coratti is looking forward to opening "a real pizzeria" and Italian restaurant with two of his nephews in downtown Howell. They are planning to renovate and expand a vacant building in downtown Howell for Coratti's, a proposed Italian restaurant and bar that would feature indoor bocce courts.

"We come from a family who loves to eat," said Anthony Coratti, who will co-own the restaurant with his uncle and cousin Peter Pfeffer. "We've always had family dinners with an abundance of Italian food to feed the family."

They purchased a vacant 5,886-square-foot building at 316 E. Grand River Ave. from First National Bank last week.  It was previously a business office for the bank.  Their plan is to build an approximately 1,000-square-foot addition on the front of the building. The expansion would create room for two indoor bocce courts and outdoor dining space out front.

They also plan to build a garden patio in the back side of the building.  Peter Coratti and his sister Michele Coratti-Pfeffer co-own Coratti's on Main, an Italian restaurant in downtown Milford. He also owns Gregg's Pizza & Bar-B-Que in Detroit. 

"This will be different," he said. "It's a real pizza theme here. We're going to have wood-fired pizza with three different crusts."

He said they will travel to Naples, Italy, for training and certification in making Napoletana pizza. "It's cooked at 900 degrees on wood with stone, and the pizza cooks in a minute," he said. 

They also plan to serve traditional medium-crust pizza and "Detroit-style-slash-Sicilian pizza that is thick and square," he said. The menu will also feature sliders, traditional Italian pasta dishes and other dishes, like wood-fired chicken wings. "We'll also have a large selection of craft beers ... as well as wine and cocktails," Anthony Coratti said. "We want Michigan craft beers, ones brewed as close by as possible."

"Bocce ball is an old school Italian game the family would play and compete," Peter Coratti said. "We compete at everything. It's also something that you can do in a bar, anyone can play at any age. That's what is really going to make it a fun place."

Screened windows would give people walking past a view of people playing bocce ball. "It's known as a yard game, but there is nowhere in Livingston County that has indoor bocce," Anthony Coratti said. Their goal is to open early next year. 

Howell real estate agent Geoffrey Greenseisen, who represented Coratti in the sale of the former bank building, said the restaurant would bring life to the east side of downtown. 

"We see a lot of activity drawn down Grand River to the west side of downtown Howell, but on (the east side) we have the historic theater, the courthouse is right there where they have concerts with people on the lawn," Greenseisen said. "I thought that building was an under-appreciated asset that will be a perfect location for a restaurant with outdoor seating," he said.

Howell's Planning Commission voted Wednesday night to recommend city officials rezone the property to be included in the Central Business District. It is zoned parking. The planning commission also approved Coratti's site plan for the building addition and renovation on the condition Howell City Council give final approval to the rezoning at a future meeting. Howell Planning Commissioner Robert Spaulding, who lives near the site, said he supports the plan to house a restaurant in the building. But he requested they add some landscaping to block vehicle headlights from impacting nearby neighbors. Peter Coratti said they would do something to address the concern. 

Mayor Nick Proctor expressed excitement about the restaurant, joking that he is looking forward to eating lasagna there. "Thank you for your investment in the city. I’ll be there a lot," Proctor said.