The Capishe Diet: How a restaurateur lost 50 pounds eating only Italian food

Servet Guvenc thinks about food like it’s his full-time job. In fact, it is his full-time job. But over the past 3 years, as he went through all the hard work that it took to open the first Capishe location on Morehead Street, the restaurant co-owner wasn’t thinking too much about the nutritional value of what he was putting in his own mouth.

“I ate everything,” he said. “Fast food, fried food.” In October 2018, as he was helping to secure the real estate for Capishe, he weighed in at 225 pounds. “I was really struggling. I wasn’t eating healthy. I gained weight a lot.” It didn’t help that he and his staff were taste-testing menu items.

The restaurant opened in December 2018.

These days, as he plans to open a second Capishe on Morrison Boulevard in South Park, Guvenc eats almost exclusively at his restaurant. That’s pizza, pasta or meatballs, salad and gelato — every day.

You’d think that would have conflated his weight issue, but actually, the opposite happened. “This morning, I was 175 pounds,” he told CharlotteFive recently.

So, what’s his secret and what does he eat to lose 50 pounds? We asked him to tell us all about what we’re now calling “The Capishe Diet.”

Here are the top 5 things he eats:

(1) Pizza

“I can eat our large pizza all by myself,” Guvenc said. “I love white pizza, I love La Neve, I love Angelino, I love pesto. I’m the white pizza guy.”

The Margherita Pizza at Capishe is made with red sauce, bufala mozzarella, fresh garlic, basil and extra virgin olive oil. Alex Cason

He also touts the benefits of margherita. “I love this pizza, it’s so light. The ingredients are the best,” he said, citing buffalo mozzarella, basil, tomato and Italian flour. “Trust me, guys. If you eat this every day, you’re gonna lose weight.”

Sounds like a dream come true.

(2) Pasta

He eats pasta every other day as to not get bored. His favorites include linguine and lemon chicken and rigatoni with chicken.

Capishe’s linguine and lemon chicken is made with linguine #21, pan-seared chicken breast, squeeze of lemon and Italian herbs, pecorino and white wine. Alex Cason

(3) Meatballs

Guvenc eats four meatballs a day — minimum: two for lunch and two for dinner.

meatball capishe copy.jpg
The meatballs at Capishe are made with ground beef, Italian seasoning and garlic, and are served with Puccia bread and Nona sauce. Alex Cason

(4) Salad

Guvenc’s favorite is Italiano salad, and his second favorite is caprese. Sometimes he adds meatballs to his salad.

Pasta chef David Cavalier shows off an Italiano salad, made with greens, pecorino and lemon vinaigrette. Alex Cason

(5) Gelato

“One thing — I cannot help it. I eat every day: gelato. I’m eating my own profit, actually,” Guvenc said.

Capishe offers a variety of gelato flavors. Alex Cason

How does it work?

It can certainly be confusing to think that pasta and cheese-rich Italian food could help us lose weight, but Guvenc swears by his methods. The ingredients used to make the food are key, he said. Capishe imports its tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and flour from Italy, and it also uses olive oil and locally grown basil. Nothing is overly processed or deep fried.

Pasta chef David Cavalier makes the rigatoni and linguine with Semolina, which is Durum wheat, a form of wheat flour. “It kinda helps people with gluten allergies; it’s less refined.”

The real secret

Guvenc may joke about the ability to eat an entire large pizza by himself, but he doesn’t actually do that — often, anyway. “My secret is portion control,” he said.

If you think about it, the enjoyment of a taste of something like gelato is just as rewarding as the enjoyment of a bowl, he said. “Let’s say gelato: You can eat one spoon or 10 spoons, it’s the same taste.”

“I don’t believe in diets. If you do diet after diet, you might gain weight.”

For the record, Guvenc also exercises daily, which you’re going to have to do, too — if you want his abs. “Push-ups and sit-ups every day, that’s my routine. I used to play semi-professional basketball.”

When it comes to gelato, one bite is just as satisfying as 10, according to Capishe co-owner Servet Guvenc. Alex Cason

Medical experts agree

Guvenc is onto something, said Andrea Hiatt, a registered dietitian with Novant Health Bariatric Solutions. She offered up proof that eating like an Italian can be a good thing.

“The Mediterranean diet is one of the most recommended diets by doctors and dietitians. The main points of the diet is that it focuses on vegetables, fruit, whole grain, legumes, nuts and good oils (like olive oil),” Hiatt said. “It also promotes consumption of eating fish like salmon or other fatty fish, chicken and turkey while limiting red meat consumption.”

There’s more: this diet has been shown to decrease inflammation in the body due to the high omega-3 FAs. It decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease. The higher fiber promotes weight loss/weight management. The plant-based approach helps to promote good gut health.

Moderation is indeed a key component, Hiatt said. “I remember when I went to Italy, Italian food was a lot different from American Italian. The portion sizes were a lot of smaller. I remember my husband asking ‘Where is my big bowl of pasta?’ Instead, pasta was more of a side dish or a smaller course with salads and fish being the main course.”

Of course, you should always chat with your doctor or dietitian before beginning any new diet, Hiatt said.

Capishe in SouthPark

Here’s some more good news for anyone to try out this new way of life (or maybe just dabble in it every once in a while). Around early November, Capishe will open its second location on Morrison Boulevard, inside a former Bojangles that includes a shared space with Wendy’s.

Co-owner Bruce Willette told CharlotteFive that customers have been requesting a Capishe in SouthPark and Huntersville over other neighborhoods in the area. “There’s a big demand for what we offer, and there aren’t too many pizza places or a ton of fast-casual in the area,” he said. “A lot of new restaurants opening are higher dollar, and us being family friendly will be a welcome addition to the SouthPark area — it’s a good match.”