When we tell you Charlotte is getting a new Italian restaurant, with imported menu items and a pasta chef that formerly worked at Kindred, you’re probably expecting a lengthy dinner experience along with the big check at the end, right?
What if we added that its co-owners include the creator of Salsaritas, Bruce Willette, and his partners Servet Guvenc, Alberto Moreno and Jayson Poluka? You then might start to understand that this experience is guaranteed to be a little bit different.
Fast-casual Italian spot Capishe, located at 500 E. Morehead Street between the Dowd YMCA and The Packhouse and Joe and Nosh, will celebrate its grand opening on Wednesday. It is just two blocks off of South Boulevard, making this spot ideally situated for anyone near Uptown, South End or Dilworth. “Our location is going to change this area,” Guvenc said.
Capishe will offer lunch and dinner pizza, pasta, meatballs and salads; Italian-imported ingredients including fresh Mozzarella di Bufala and gelato; beer and wine and Illy coffee and espresso. Meal items range from $7-$12, with 15″ sharable pizzas $15-20.
Order at the counter and find a seat in the restaurant, which doesn’t have a typical limited-service feel. “It’s nicer than your average fast-casual spot,” Willette said. “It’s nicer than Salsaritas — again, I can say that.” Traditional Italian music plays over the sound system while string lighting softens the dining room, making the large space feel more intimate.
Sous chef David Cavalier said the scratch kitchen uses no preservatives and focuses on preparing everything in a real authentic Italian way with a modern feel. The wood-fired ovens were created in Italy by a company that has been around since the 1800s. Pizzas can be ready 90 seconds from ordering.
The assimilato pasta is created using an extruder, not drowned in sauce and cheese, which keeps the dish light and authentic with Italian style portions — smaller than typically seen in the U.S.
It’s a no-substitution restaurant, so don’t expect to load up your meal with a lot of extra ingredients. “We work really hard to make sure the customer gets what they need for that dish,” Cavalier said. Don’t worry if you’re a picky eater — you can request items without that something you don’t like (here’s looking at you, mushrooms).
Bambino pizzas and pastas will be available for children and will include pasta and pizza with cheese and sauce.
Hand-held sandwiches for takeaway will offer a quick fix for who don’t have time to linger but still want an authentic Italian snack. However, if you have time to sit and stay a while, prepare to be enticed by the rooftop patio and outdoor sidewalk seating while enjoying a margherita pizza or rigatoni and glass of red or white.
Desserts include an Italian pastry called sfogliatelle, the imported gelato and cannoli.
Local craft beer will be on rotation as well as Peroni. Also offered will be sweet and unsweet tea and Coca-Cola fountain drinks. Sports will be shown on the TVs at the bar.
Online ordering will be available via the web site.
Don’t be surprised if Capishe is the first of many, considering by the time Willette sold Salsarita’s in 2010, the casual Mexican chain had grown to 85 restaurants across 18 states and Puerto Rico. “That is my history — creating multiple places,” Willette said. “The model can be replicated — I wouldn’t do it if I was going to do just one.”
Willette’s dream of Capishe was always in the back of his mind as he focused his energy first on Salsarita’s, then later on Amelie’s, where he served as managing partner.
It wasn’t until Willette after was introduced to the guys who are now his partners, and especially after trying head chef Moreno’s food for the first time (whose resume includes Antico in Atlanta and Aliño’s Pizza in Mooresville) Willette knew it was time to bring this to fruition.
“I have more confidence in the success of this than I did Salsaritas,” he said.