First Look: St. Francisville’s stylish Big River Pizza Company and sister concepts open this weekend

Get ready for a slice in St. Francisville. The new Neapolitan-style Big River Pizza Company opens Saturday, April 27, at 5725 N. Commerce St., one of several new businesses that are part of a major revitalization project in the town’s historic center.

The wood-fired pizza concept was developed by Morgan and Lizzie Moss and their Blue House Hospitality Group, which operates The Myrtles Plantation and its Restaurant 1796 and Elta Coffee.

Big River Pizza Company Co-owners Lizzie and Morgan Moss
Big River Pizza Company

“We travel a lot, and we see a lot of properties that really inspire us and make us want to do cool stuff,” Morgan says. “We love the construction and design part of it.”

The idea to open Big River Pizza first emerged about two years ago, when the Mosses were visiting with their friends Susan and Don Charlet, the visionaries behind the North Commerce renewal. Morgan and Lizzie had been considering opening a restaurant on Highway 61, but quickly pivoted and joined the Charlets in their effort to transform the outdated block at North Commerce and Ferdinand streets in the heart of downtown. The block also includes the trendy home decor retailer The Corbel and the recently opened Hotel Toussaint. The Mosses bought a building from the Charlets that had once housed the West Feliciana Council on Aging with plans to turn it into a gourmet pizzeria.

Big River Pizza Co-executive Chef Nick Kent

And it’s not just pizza. The property includes companion concepts, too. A small, attached space on the front of the building now serves as the new location for the ice cream parlor and candy store Away Down South. A beloved local hangout, the store closed its original Ferdinand Street storefront during the pandemic. It reopens on April 27. And at the rear of the pizzeria, down the hall from cheery tables and an open kitchen, is a separate speakeasy the Mosses created called Proud Mary’s.

Away Down South
The Swine All Mine Pizza
Margherita Pizza

Big River’s menu includes antipasti, inventive 12-inch red and white pies, seasonal salads and desserts.

Starters include shareables like garlic knots with whipped feta and marinara, a charcuterie board, fried cheese curds and a french fry basket with Parmesan and aioli. As for pizzas, choose from 10 curated pies or create your own. Red pies feature options like the Swine All Mine with sausage, pepperoni, bacon and pulled pork; or the Margot with fontina, pepperoni, calabrese and hot honey. Among the white pies are the Carbonara, topped with mozzarella, bacon, caramelized onion, egg, ranch dressing and Parmesan cheese; the five-cheese All But Blue; and the One Love, topped with fried chicken, remoulade and pickled jalapeño. Gluten-free crusts are available.

For the service model, Morgan and Lizzie took inspiration from one of their favorite spots, Cochon Butcher in New Orleans. Order at the counter, then wait for your meal to be delivered by table runners, who also refill drinks. Or, order directly from a tabletop QR code. The decor is modern and industrial, with splashes of red, subway tiles set off by dark grout, exposed ceilings and ductwork, and Edison lightbulb fixtures.

Grab a table or booth, or a spot at the communal counter inside. Ample outdoor seating is available on the restaurant’s side and front patios and in a large garden at the rear of the property.

The sheer size of the rectangular-shaped building allowed the Mosses to create Proud Mary’s, their bar concept at the far end. A hallway leads patrons from the restaurant to the speakeasy, a funky space with cherry reds, moody violets and maximalist touches. Guests can order from the Big River menu and dine here, but the space is intended to be a grown-up counterpoint to the pizzeria’s kid-friendliness. It also opens on April 27.

“We see the front as kind of the place where you go grab dinner after ball practice, and the back is for things like girlfriends who want to grab a small plate and a cocktail before going to an event,” Lizzie says.

The Mosses say Proud Mary’s will deploy an all-draft bar program that includes draft beer, wine and cocktails. Bar patrons can also order hand-shaken classic cocktails.

Proud Mary’s

For locals, Big River Pizza delivers a new casual dining option, much anticipated since the beloved Magnolia Cafe nearby is no longer open for dinner. And for the town’s regular visitors, it’s another draw for day trips or weekends away. The restaurant is within walking distance from moss-draped Parker Park, the St. Francisville Inn, The Corbel, Hotel Toussaint, rustic events center The Mallory, and his-and-hers boutiques Barlow Fashion and Deyo Supply. The forthcoming Bayou Sara Brewing Company, a project by St. Francisville residents Amanda and Steve McKinney, is expected to open later this year, also within the North Commerce entertainment hub.

Big River Pizza Company is open Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m. For more information, visit bigriverpizzaco.com.