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Big Rock Italian Chophouse exterior

Big Rock Italian Chophouse in the former Grand Trunk Western Railroad Depot in Birmingham is scheduled to open next summer. Photo Credit: Knauer Inc.

By Jay Davis | Crain’s Detroit Business | Published June 8, 2023

The historic space in Birmingham that was once home to Big Rock Chophouse is set to once again become an upscale restaurant — one with a bit of a familiar name.

Columbus, Ohio-based Cameron Mitchell Restaurants LLC on Thursday announced plans to open Big Rock Italian Chophouse at 245 S. Eton St. next summer.

The project is a joint venture between Cameron Mitchell Restaurants and local investor partners including Tom Celani and Dario Bergamo.

Cameron Mitchell Restaurants is investing $10 million in renovating the former Grand Trunk Western Railroad Depot, which housed the LePage family-owned Big Rock Chophouse from 1997 until it closed at the end of 2021.

The new Big Rock Italian Chophouse interior

The new Big Rock Italian Chophouse in Birmingham is slated to open next summer. Photo Credit: Knauer Inc.

Illinois-based design firm Knauer Inc. is handling the design work. Knauer locally has also designed Parc restaurant at Campus Martius in downtown Detroit and is working on Presley’s Kitchen + Bar, a new project set to open later this year inside the David Whitney Building downtown.

The 11,000-square-foot restaurant in Birmingham will offer a menu of prime steaks and chops, handmade pasta and a large high-end wine list. Big Rock Italian Chophouse will also feature a large selection of bourbon and a signature handcrafted cocktail menu.

The new restaurant will have seating for about 375 guests, including space for 100 on an outdoor patio. Big Rock Italian Chophouse will also include three distinct bars and several private dining rooms. The property will include a private cigar club and terrace for members to enjoy specialty cigars.

It will also offer a private membership club experience, including access to a concierge, guaranteed reservations at the restaurant and preferred reservations at any of the 45 Cameron Mitchell restaurants in the U.S. Members also gain access to a lounge and separate cigar lounge with and access to amenities and special events not available to the public.

Cameron Mitchell, founder and CEO of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, in a statement said the company considers Southeast Michigan a second home market. The company, established in 1993, has operated a variety of restaurants in the area including Cameron’s Steakhouse in Birmingham and Mitchell’s Fish Market locations in Birmingham, Lansing, Livonia and Rochester Hills before the properties were sold to Florida-based Ruth’s Hospitality in 2008. Cameron Mitchell Restaurants’ sister company, the Rusty Bucket Restaurant & Tavern, has locations in Bingham Farms, Bloomfield Hills and two in Northville. Cameron Mitchell Restaurants’ first Ocean Prime eatery opened in Troy in 2008.

“We’re thrilled to introduce Big Rock Italian Chophouse to Birmingham,” Mitchell said in the release. “Over the next year, our team will work to update and reintroduce this spectacular property.”

Celani is founder and CEO of Novi-based investment company Luna Entertainment, owner of the Michigan Lottery Amphitheatre at Freedom Hill in Sterling Heights, leader of the Celani Family Foundation nonprofit group and a pioneer in the Detroit gaming scene. Bergamo and Celani have also partnered on philanthropic events including the annual Cars & Cigars — Smoke Detroit fundraiser.

The nature of Celani’s and Bergamo’s investment into the Big Rock project was not disclosed.

Detroit native Celani said he’s excited to partner with Cameron Mitchell Restaurants on the new restaurant concept. “.. this will be a premier destination for many years to come,” Celani said in the release.

Bergamo, a businessman and Rochester Hills resident, said the goal with Big Rock Italian Chophouse is to create a comfortable space that will bring people together for special occasions and to simply enjoy each other’s company.

“(Celani) and I have a deep-rooted understanding of the metro Detroit market,” Bergamo said in the release, “and we are excited to see the realization of our and (Cameron Mitchell Restaurants’) vision.”