After their first restaurant, J. Baldwin’s in Clinton Township, celebrated 13 years in business, owners Jeff and Rosemarie Baldwin have launched their second restaurant concept, a hybrid of traditional and modern Italian cuisine called Testa Barra Kitchen and Cocktails in Macomb Township.
Rosemarie Baldwin says the restaurant’s décor was designed to evoke a “happy” feel, with a main dining room, a long bar with community seating, and a raised platform with seating dubbed the “naughty corner,” as well as neon lights and decorations designed to encourage patrons to loosen up and enjoy.
“The flavor profile is very much out there with an authentic, northern Italian feel with a modern execution,” adds Rosemarie.
Their menu includes hand-tossed pizzas, salads, homemade pasta dishes, bone-in entrees including lamb shank, pollo puttanesca, short ribs, and pork chops, fish, polenta fries, and more.
Rosemarie says that Testa Barra’s menu and atmosphere are geared towards “millennials and groovy foodies” who are looking for original culinary concepts and aren’t afraid to have fun with their food.
“Groovy foodies aren’t about age, it’s about an individual that seeks out independent menus and restaurants and that’s why they’re groovy, because that’s what they’re looking for, no matter what area they’re in,” she says.
While their business has always been a family affair, the new restaurant is being manned by a second generation of Baldwins, including youngest son, Mike Baldwin, and his fiancée, Gabriella Rodriguez, who are both chefs at Testa Barra. Oldest son Jeffery Baldwin has also come aboard as director of operations, juggling responsibilities at both restaurants. The name itself is a combination of Rosemarie’s maiden name (Testa) and Barra, the name of an island off the coast of Scotland, an homage to Jeff’s Scottish and English heritage.
Prior to opening his own establishments, Jeff served as an executive chef in several metro Detroit kitchens, including MacRay Harbor in Harrison Township, the former Van Dyke Place in Detroit’s Indian Village neighborhood, and The Whitney in Detroit.
Though the Baldwins considered opening Testa Barra in different parts of metro Detroit, they ultimately decided to stay in Macomb Township because research indicated most of their customers hailed from the local area. Testa Barra is located within five miles of J. Baldwin’s.
“We wanted our customers who supported the J.Baldwin’s story to know that they could trust and take a chance on the new concept, as opposed to going to downtown Detroit or to Plymouth where you’re trying to prove yourself as a brand,” says Rosemarie. “People want to drive less than three miles to go to great restaurants, and there’s this demographic in this particular area that’s craving local products and from-scratch kitchens, and that’s what we provide.”