The Bird & The Bread offers Euro-style, family-friendly eats in Birmingham

It was always a part of the plan for The Bird & The Bread to be a welcoming restaurant for families.

What was not as planned was the extent to which family would play into the charmingly-named, stunningly designed and decorated space where food described as modern Euro casual with an American twist is being brought to Birmingham by the owners and creators of Vinology in Ann Arbor and and Vinotecca in Royal Oak. The Bird & The Bread at 210 South Old Woodward opened for dinner Feb. 22 and will open for lunch March 25. It is connected to The ELM, a banquet room for about 150 guests that is under construction and will open March 18. Brunch will be served at The Bird & The Bread before Easter.

But back to the family ties. First, the restaurant name. It comes from the nicknames given to the twin 3-1/2-year-old children of the owners by their grandfather. One, the smaller girl with a cry more like a squawk, was dubbed The Bird. The heftier son was more like a dense loaf of bread and took his nickname from that.

Later, as the family thought up the name of their future restaurant that would serve more as a comfort food place than their wine-focused previous endeavors, the inclusion of bread, as in fresh-baked loaves, and bird, as in chicken, made sense. The whimsical nature of the name fit the family attitude and restaurant design, which includes an emphasis on environmentally sustainable construction and has a stave — a room that feels like being inside a wine barrel.

"We agonized and agonized about the name of this restaurant because it's the first time for us not to do a vino concept," says co-owner Kristin Jonna, who grew up around good food and wine as the daughter of John Jonna, one of the founders of Merchant of Vino and former owner of Merchant's Fine Wine. She has traveled the world honing her craft — wine and food — and is known as one of Michigan's wine experts. The Jonnas also created Vinotecca inside the Bastone complex in downtown Royal Oak, and own and operate the successful Vinology in downtown Ann Arbor.

The departure from a fine-wine restaurant — though the Bird & Bread will have a good selection — was a response to something missing in Birmingham.

"Birmingham has done high end well. It didn't necessarily need more of that," Kristin Jonna says. "We felt what was untapped was a more a casual concept, more of an everyday family restaurant."

That should not imply that hot dogs and chicken fingers are on the menu, though executive chef Jim Leonardo, who is splitting his time between the new restaurant and Vinology, "is loving getting the chance to cook food he serves to his family," she says.

Further tying in the family connection, the grandfather's 30-year-old collection of cookbooks decorates The Bird & The Bread's walls and light fixtures in the space that's broken into comfy, homey rooms such as the nook and the stave and a restaurant entrance that welcomes diners with the warmth of a pizza oven and rotisserie.

The ELM banquet space, which has a simpler, elegant decor and a completely different food selection, is named after nephews Enzo and Luke and niece Maya, the children of Vincent Jonna, who's also in the family restaurant and wine business.

"We are just so excited and ready to go," says Jonna. "We want people to know, the families to know, we're here and want to share The Bird & The Bread with them."

Source: Kristin Jonna, co-owner, The Bird & The Bread
Writer: Kim North Shine