Charlotte restaurateur Pierre Bader of Sonoma Restaurant Group is about to launch a new concept in Uptown Charlotte later this year. Cicchetti (pronounced “chee-KEH-tee”), a Venetian-style wine bar featuring classic cicchetti, or small Italian dishes, opening at the corner of North College and East Trade Streets in the Bank of America Corporate Center, in the former City Smoke location. City Smoke closed March 2 in preparation for renovations to the space.
The new spot will be an interpretation of the classic Venetian wine bar, or bacaro, a casual and convivial spot where locals gather beginning in the late afternoon to enjoy glasses of wine alongside savory finger foods, or cicchetti, exquisite small bites that are Venice’s answer to Spanish tapas or Turkish meze.
Bader has honed his palet through owning Aria Tuscan Grill and his extensive travels;
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“I’ve enjoyed this concept when traveling,” explained Bader, “and believe it will be a welcome addition and fun option in the local bar and dining scene. The experience here could range from after-work or pre-dinner bites and drinks, to a leisurely meal of small Italian dishes over wine with friends, or a late evening nightcap and snacks.”
Cicchetti options will be extensive and ever-changing. Some examples of these shareable small plates include:
- Pan-Fried Polpettine di Manzo (beef meatballs), a trademark cicchetto with minced beef, whipped potato, and speck
- Baccalà Fritters (Italian-style salt cod)
- Polenta Crostini with Salume and Warm Smoked Mozzarella
- Sautéed Venetian Artichoke Salad with Asiago Cheese and Crisp Bruschetta
- Mini Ricotta Frittata
- Pan-Fried Lump Crabmeat Polpettine with Fresh Thyme, Parsley & Dried Chili
- Venetian Chopped Liver Crostini with Sweet Onion, Sultanas, Pine Nuts & Crisp Prosciutto
- Scallop Gratin with Olive Oil, Garlic, Fresh Parsley & Bread Crumbs
- Carpaccio of Swordfish & Rocket Bruschetta
- Aubergine Patties with Fresh Parsley, Garlic, Cumin, Fresh Lemon
- Tramezzini (finger sandwiches on grilled ciabatta) such as:
- Porchetta, Fire-Roasted Peppers & Gremolata Aioli
- Smoked Salmon, Whipped Goat Cheese & Fresh Arugula Pesto
- Rosemary Prosciutto Cotto, Sliced Hard-Boiled Egg & Truffle Aioli
- A variety of charcuterie
- A build-your-own bruschetta bar, with spreads like arugula pesto, cannellini bean puree, lemon-roasted eggplant, and roasted red pepper Parmigiano; and toppings such as fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, goat cheese, olives, fresh herbs, grilled shrimp, and porchetta
“The food will be authentic Italian, and the variety considerable,” continued Bader, “but the shining star will be our impressive wine selection, priced at retail to go, or to be plucked from the shelf and enjoyed in-house for a small corkage fee. We’ll also offer a full bar, from which you can order wine by the glass or bottle, a variety of beers on tap, or craft cocktails curated by local mixologist Bob Peters. These will include variations on classic Italian offerings like the Negroni and Venice’s own Spritz and Bellini.”
As a retail wine shop, Cicchetti will offer an all-world selection of wine by the bottle or case, with a focus on Italian options, as well as delivery within the Uptown footprint.
“Operations Manager and Wine Director Briana Cohen has been with our company for 22 years, and she’s developed into one of the foremost authorities on wine in this region, particularly of Italian producers,” stated Bader. “Her knowledge and passion will show in every aspect of Cicchetti’s wine program, from selection and display to staff training, customer education, and presentation. This will be an impressive and memorable wine bar experience.”
Architectural design firm Shook Kelley is handling renovations to the space, with Cicley Sullivan and Frank Quattrocchi as interior designers. The interior will feature a modern interpretation of the traditional Venetian bacaro.
“The design of the new Cicchetti space fuses Old World Italian with clean modern elements to bring a more traditional design into the modern age,” Sullivan elaborated. “Bold patterns, warm woods and metals, along with soft lighting and fabrics, provide warmth and character in the glass-enclosed, two-story space, creating intimate seating areas for sharing exquisite wines and small plates integral to the new concept.”
Cicchetti is slated for a June opening and will seat 81 customers at cocktail tables with chairs, settees, and banquettes, as well as 17 at the central bar. The restaurant will be open Monday through Saturday from mid-afternoon to late night.
Pierre Bader’s nearly 30-year local restaurant legacy includes Monticello in the Dunhill Hotel, Sonoma (in multiple locations), Arpa Tapas, Town (later Pie Town), Press Wine & Food, City Smoke, and Aria Tuscan Grill. When Monticello opened under Bader’s direction in 1991, it was the first restaurant in Charlotte dedicated to locally sourced foods.
Pierre is on-site at Aria most nights, greeting diners and often orchestrating the well-oiled pre-show rush at this favorite of Blumenthal Performing Arts Center show attendees. Sonoma Restaurant Group also operates a catering arm that exclusively services Founders Hall, as well as on- and off-site events.