Picture wandering the cobblestone streets of Venice in search of dinner. You wander from one baraco to another, eating bite-sized food served in places resembling small bars. With it you can enjoy a small amount of wine served in a glass the equivalent of a shot glass. Restaurateur Pierre Bader of Sonoma Restaurant Group is bringing the concept to uptown Charlotte.
Cicchetti will open Oct. 1 at 100 N. Tryon St., in the space that once housed Badar’s restaurant, City Smoke.
Hundreds of years ago, vineyards and wineries would bring wine to Venetian squares, selling their new harvest wines in order to make money to bottle the rest of the stash. People would get hungry after drinking, so cicchettis started popping up in Venetian squares to feed hungry drinkers, Badar told CharlotteFive. “Charlotte doesn’t have any place like that, so I thought we could give it a shot,” he said.
Some of the dishes will be devoured in one bite, eaten with a toothpick. With portion sizes so small, that leaves a lot of room for variety in ordering. “You can go crazy a little bit,” Badar said.
This sharing of small plates lends to a social setting, he said. “Sit down and have a glass or a bottle of wine and eat little bites until you think you can’t take it anymore.”
Menu items include Polpette (meatballs), including beef, salted cod, fresh crab, and lamb; Polpo – sautéed baby octopus, creamy polenta, squid ink white wine pan sauce; Pettine – diver scallop gratin, besciamella; Ostriche — fried oysters, puttanesca aioli; and Vitello – veal sausage, black kale tomato pesto.
A build-your-own bruschetta bar will feature olive oil crostini and topping choices such as Pisello (fresh peas, shallot, robiolina); Peperoncino (roasted red pepper, pecorino), Carciofo (artichoke salad, fresh mint, asiago, lemon) and Pomodoro (olive oil-cured tomatoes, basil pesto).
Don’t let the price of the full meals give you sticker shock: the 48-oz. beef tomahawk chimichurri rossi is $120, but it’s meant to be shared with two or more people (most likely, more, since you’ll fill up on small plates). The rotisserie whole chicken is $30 and is cut into four pieces. A 30-oz rack of lamb with pomegranate and mint is $95 and a whole roasted fish with capers berry onion relish is $40.
Beer by the bottle will be available (such as Peroni, OMB Copper, Fuller’s and Paulaner) — as well as craft cocktails, including a seasonal rotating tap by mixologist Bob Peters, and spritzes, bellinis, and more. And of course, wine by the ombra (3 oz), glass (6 oz) or bottle.
Cicchetti will also have a retail wine shop, with wines sold by the bottle or the case — and delivery will be offered. Operations manager Briana Cohen said to expect a wine selection that isn’t similar to what every other wine bar in Charlotte is serving. “Our wine selection really focuses on a lot of new producers to the market,” she said. “We have a lot of Charlotte’s faves. We really want to make sure everyone feels a comfort level when they come in and that the selection is not intimidating.”
The interior will feature a modern interpretation of a bacaro, a traditional Venetian bar.
In this ever-changing city full of millennials who use dining out as a social activity, his new concept will be a lot more popular, Badar said. City Smoke, his barbecue restaurant for the past seven years, didn’t have the same longevity, he told CharlotteFive in March. “I didn’t see any growth in the barbecue business. Everyone — and their mom and dad — think they have the recipe for barbecue. I tried to stay away from that debate as much as I could.”
He tried introducing other items, including rotisserie lamb and pork racks at City Smoke, but to no avail. “Once you are labeled as a barbecue restaurant, you can’t do much else.”
This article first appeared at CharlotteFive.com.