Mike Libretto wants to reassure everyone: No, he’s not bringing another pizza place to Plaza Midwood.
Instead, Libretto and partner Mario Flynn plan to open a second Coaltrane’s Char Grill location in the former John’s Country Kitchen space on the corner of Central and Pecan.
The space at 1518 Central Avenue has sat vacant since it closed in May 2015. Libretto and Flynn said they hope to have Coaltrane’s open by early summer.
“The neighborhood needs food options — and not pizza,” said Libretto who, you probably guessed by now, owns Libretto’s Pizzeria. “This was just a building that we had our eye on for a long time. When this came up — the architecture, the feel of the building, it just felt like a great Coaltrane’s.”
The first Coaltrane’s opened in the EpiCentre last year, serving rotisserie chicken, flat-iron steaks, chorizo and sandwiches, with a focus on locally-sourced and organic foods, said Flynn, who also opened Pint Central down the street.
“It’s not Boston Market,” Flynn said.
In addition to the food, the building itself will be the star at Coaltrane’s. Flynn and Libretto want to maintain the character and the charm of the historic building.
There’s not much to see inside right now — the space has been basically stripped bare. But that’s the idea — to really accentuate the bones of the building.
After “years of covering up this building, we’re just gonna start peeling away the layers,” Mario said. They didn’t know what they’d find, but they were pleasantly surprised with the beams and brick they uncovered — and this old can of PBR.
“The beauty of this is we have the opportunity to design it from the studs out,” Libretto said. “Our last location, we took over another restaurant and kind of slapped it together. … This one’s going to define the brand.”
What’s that brand? Think John Coltrane, the great jazz saxophonist.
“Blues, jazz,” Libretto said. “It’s going to have a good vibe, laid-back vibe to the place. … It’s going to be a hangout, a hangout for people our age, a hangout for families.”
Libretto and Flynn hope to add a mezzanine on the second floor, with access to a rooftop deck on the rear part of the building that would have clear views of uptown Charlotte. And they plan to have local artists paint a mural showcasing the neighborhood’s history on the side of the building, facing Pecan.
The gutted interior of the 1,600 square-foot space looks bare now, but you can tell Flynn is excited about what it will become. He said it reminds him of old buildings in New York City, where he used to live.
“It’s cool to be passionate about something,” he said. “This just feels good. It’s almost like you’re not just opening a business, you’re kind of pouring your heart into it a little bit.”
Photos: Corey Inscoe; PBR can: Mario Flynn