Take Me to the River

In St. Francisville's exciting North Commerce development,
Big River Pizza Company is the latest piece to fall in to place.

Of the many projects supercharging St. Francisville’s local economy, few stand to have a greater impact for residents and visitors alike than North Commerce—the retail, dining, and entertainment campus taking shape at the corner of Commerce and Ferdinand streets. The brainchild of Don and Susan Charlet and their children, Cage and John Luke, North Commerce is a home base for the Charlets’ many enterprises—The Corbel home décor and furniture gallery, the Barlow and Deyo clothing boutiques, The Mallory event center, and the soon-to-open Hotel Toussaint—while simultaneously creating fertile ground for complementary ventures to take root. The latest to do so is Big River Pizza Company, a wood-fired pizza restaurant, ice creamery and bar concept coming to the site once occupied by the West Feliciana Council on Aging. Big River is a new project for The Myrtles’ owners and restaurateurs Morgan and Lizzie Moss. With a business loan from Bank of St. Francisville, the Mosses are building on experience earned while opening The Myrtles’ Restaurant 1796 and Elta coffee shop, to bring a fast-casual, family-friendly dining hotspot to the gates of St. Francisville’s historic district.

Those familiar with the former Council on Aging building will be surprised at the scope of the project taking shape behind its narrow façade. Visitors will enter from the street into a vintage-industrial-style dining room with hardwood floors underfoot, exposed trusses and duct work overhead, and a custom-built brick pizza oven that dominates the open-plan kitchen ahead. After ordering from a walk-up counter or tableside right from their phones, diners get to choose between many seating options: booths, standalone tables and communal hightops in the main dining room; on a streetside patio with views of Parker Park, or in outdoor spaces on side and back porches overlooking the North Commerce campus’s central green space. It might look small from the street, but Big River will seat up to 150. By letting guests choose between dining areas, the Mosses are creating spaces that feel cozy and welcoming, rather than big or barnlike. Aesthetically as well as operationally, they credit Cochon Butcher, Chef Donald Link’s casual dining landmark on the edge of New Orleans’ Warehouse District, for supplying much of the inspiration. “We’ve always loved Butcher for their style and for the way they operate,” noted Morgan. “Butcher does fast-casual while still keeping a very attractive service component. We’ve always wanted to do a restaurant that operated the same way. So, when this opportunity came up, we already had that idea in our minds.“

Expanded Dining Options

Naturally, the menu at Big River will revolve around hand-thrown, artisanal pizzas fired in that wood-fired Marra Forni oven. But the culinary options don’t end there. Working closely with Morgan and Lizzie, Executive Chef Nick Kent has assembled a fresh, contemporary menu that also offers seasonal salads, rotating specials, and six to eight small-plate-style appetizers chosen to pair well with the draft beer, wine, and cocktail selections. Several desserts are in the works, although not so many as to distract attention from the adjoining ice creamery, where diners will be able to add a cup or a cone of hand-dipped ice cream to their meal, either from inside the restaurant or from a side service window.

Proud Mary’s – a Party in the Back

When guests enter Big River Pizza Co from Commerce Street, one of its most unique features won’t be immediately obvious. That’s by design. Patrons who make their way past the kitchen to the rear of the long, narrow building will discover Proud Mary’s, a snug, speakeasy-style cocktail bar which they’ll enter by stepping through a vintage wardrobe, story-book-style. Here, the Mosses have given their creative spirit free reign, complementing the industrial aesthetic of the restaurant with a plush, maximalist design that favors rich fabrics, saturated colors, upholstered seating, and a bar menu showcasing craft cocktails and one-off kitchen specials.

Lizzie & Morgan Moss  
Big River Pizza Company will open in late spring, 2024.

Greater than the Sum of Its Parts

Whether it’s the hand-thrown pizzas, hand-dipped ice cream, or craft cocktails that draw diners to Big River, the Mosses are committed to ensuring that the new venture complements, rather than competes with, the businesses nearby. In fact, the collaborative potential is one of the aspects they’re most excited about. “This project started when we had an opportunity to acquire this space,” said Morgan. “Then it was like, ‘What do we put there that will marry well to the St. Francisville Inn across the street, to Parker Park, to the brewery as a neighbor, to all the shopping and retail going on in North Commerce?’ Because when there’s something going on at The Mallory for 500 people, or there’s something's going on in Parker Park, we want this place to be a bit of a warm hug. That’s how we arrived at pizza. Because we can do it in a showcase kitchen with a live fire oven. We can let it be a culinary art form that’ll be really fun and exciting. But it can also be casual enough to allow the spontaneous diners and family groups who just need a bite of pizza on their way home to enjoy it that way. Or where people who are shopping and just need to kick their feet up and slide into Proud Mary’s for a cocktail and some fried brussels sprouts can get that, too.”

According to Melvin Harvey, Jr., Bank of St. Francisville’s Senior Vice President for Commercial Lending, that spirit of collaboration makes Big River a perfect fit for the bank’s commitment to supporting projects that grow the potential of the St. Francisville community for residents and visitors alike. “Big River Pizza and Proud Mary’s contribution to the local economy will generate additional sales tax revenue for the town, which will help provide increased parking in the downtown area, maintain our roads and bridges and support our town police and fire departments,” Harvey said. “The North Commerce development projects represent great revitalization for the area. Bank Of St. Francisville is very proud to be involved in this process. We believe in lending in the communities we serve. Always have, and always will.”

To learn more about how Bank of St. Francisville can help establish, grow, or expand your business, call 225-635-6397 or click here to schedule an appointment.

Published 12/18/2023

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