Category Archives: Italian food

Luciano’s food truck hits Wichita streets

Luciano Motolla poses in front of his new mobile food trailer, called Strada.

Luciano Mottola poses in front of his new mobile food trailer, called Strada.

Fans of Luciano’s, the well-regarded Italian restaurant in Mulvane, know that if they want to enjoy owner Luciano Mottola’s homey pasta dishes, they’re going to drive.

But not any more.

Luciano and his wife, Nancy, have just launched a Luciano’s mobile food business that they’re calling Strada, which is the Italian word for “street.” It’ll be in the Brittany Center parking lot at 21st and Woodlawn from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. today (Thursday).

The couple decided to start the food truck, Nancy said, after getting requests from Wichita fans.

“A lot of people wanted us to open a location in Wichita, but we felt that would take away from what we were doing here,” she said. “We felt like this would fill that need without taking anything away from Mulvane.”

The trailer will offer pasta dishes made popular in the Mulvane restaurant, and it will also serve salads using cone-shaped versions of its famous Parmesan salad bowl.

The dishes will be less expensive than they are in the restaurant and are intended to give people a “fast and friendly way” to have a taste of what they can get in Mulvane, Nancy said. Today’s menu includes a shrimp and mushroom penne with cream sauce.

The trailer will be out for lunch on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. The Mottolas are interested in getting involved in Food Trucks at the Fountain and also are open to serving at special events on weekends.

On Friday, the’ll be parked at Bing Brothers Liquor in Winfield from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Schedules can be found on the Luciano’s Facebook page and on its Twitter account.

For more information, call 316-777-0045.

New Italian restaurant Albero Cafe about ready to go

IMG_0473I’ve been getting a frenzy of e-mails from College Hill-ians noticing that the new Albero Cafe, which is going into the former Bocconcini building at 4811 E. Central, is about to open.

This morning I stopped by and talked to Hassan Ballout, who said opening day for his Italian restaurant is still almost two weeks away. He hopes to have the restaurant ready to go the week of July 21.

Ballout, who worked for 10 years at nearby Bella Luna Cafe, has remodeled the space, adding new flooring, new tables and chairs and a fresh coat of paint. It looks and smells brand new, and it’s bright and open.

He also has his menu ready to go. It features flatbreads, salads, panini sandwiches and pasta dishes such as spaghetti and meatballs, Italian sausage penne and shrimp scampi. Entrees included grilled grouper, grilled salmon, strip steak, chicken Parmesan and eggplant Parmesan. The restaurant also will offer several Italian sodas and will have a liquor license.

Hours will be 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

I’ll let you know when Ballout settles on a firm opening date.

Sweet Basil aims for early August reopening

Firefighters battle the April 2 fire at Sweet Basil.

Firefighters battle the April 2 fire at Sweet Basil.

It’s been a long three months for Charli Singh, whose Sweet Basil restaurant at 2424 N. Woodlawn has been closed since early April because of a kitchen fire that resulted in an estimated $400,000 damage.

But when the restaurant reopens, possibly in early August, customers won’t recognize it.

Singh is working with an architect to re-imagine the interior of the 23-year-old restaurant. He’s adding a bar on the south wall, which the restaurant never had before, and he’s also getting all new tables and chairs. The paint job will be different, too.

“It’s a lot of work,” he said. “I wish I didn’t have to do it, but it’s also exciting.”

Singh has been asking his customers for feedback on what he should change and keep the same on the Sweet Basil Facebook page, where he also posted a remodel blueprint.

Stay tuned for updates.

Bocconcini lives again at Bocco Deli

Nathan Toubia closed his delicious Bocconcini Italian Eatery at 4811 E. Central in August, and it was a sad day for fans of Italian food.

But some of Bocconcini’s recipes are being revived at Toubia’s other surviving restaurant — Bocco Deli at 3010 E. Central.

That restaurant is a lunch-only place, but on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, Toubia is opening it up for dinner, serving many of his Bocconcini favorites.

Each weekend, he plans to set a multi-course menu, with two choices for each course. The courses will be sold a la carte, so diners can pick and choose what they want.  Last week, Toubia included on the menu Bocconcini’s famous frico appetizer, which features fried cheese filled with leeks, potatoes and sausage. Other choices included potato leek ravioli and pork and mushroom ragu. This weekend, he plans to include butternut squash ravioli.

Toubia will skip this Thursday becuase of Halloween but will serve dinner on Friday and Saturday. Each week, the dinner will start at 6:30 p.m., and he’s requiring reservations.

To make one, call 316-558-8412 and leave a message. Watch for the menus on Bocco Deli’s Facebook page.

Luciano’s is expanding, adding deli

Luciano Mottola

Luciano’s, a popular Italian restaurant at 216 W. Main St. in Mulvane, is growing.

Owner Luciano Mottola broke ground a few weeks ago on a remodeling that will result in more seating, a new covered patio and a deli selling items such as pastas, desserts and specialty mozzarella, prosciutto and mortadella imported from Italy.

The deli is going where the open kitchen is now, and a new, larger kitchen will be added behind it. Customers still will be able to see into the kitchen.

He’s also adding a gelato machine and an espresso machine. Mottola hopes to have a grand re-opening in December to show off the expansion.

In the meantime, the restaurant is operating as normal around the construction. It’s open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays but is closed on Tuesdays.

For more information, call 316-777-0045.

Nathan Toubia closes Bocconcini Italian Eatery

It’s a sad day for fans of pillowy ravioli and pork saltimbocca.

Nathan Toubia has closed is Bocconcini Italian Eatery at 4811 E. Central. He plans to keep his Bocco Deli open at 3010 E. Central and focus his energy there.

Toubia, the son of Latour founder Antoine Toubia, opened Bocconcini in August of 2011, and it was instantly popular with foodies. 

On Labor Day weekend of last year, Toubia suffered serious injuries in a motorcycle accident. Since then, he said, he’s struggled personally and financially.

In June, Toubia cut out his weekday lunch hours. Though business had picked back up recently, he still had to make the hard decision, he said.

“I hate to see it go, but also, for me personally, I need to be balanced,” he said. “I think it’s bette r to cut ties and focus more on the deli.”

Bravos changes name, avoids lawsuit

Bravos, the delicious downtown Italian restaurant I reviewed earlier this year, isn’t Bravos any more.

The restaurant was notified recently that it was being sued by big Italian chain Bravo Cucina Italiana because it was using a name that was already taken.

Rather than going to battle with a corporate giant, said Lita Zendeli, daughter of owner Kas Zendeli, the restaurant agreed to change its name, and the lawsuit was dropped.

The new name is Pasta Piazza Italian Restaurant, a name suggested by a loyal customer. The Zendelis are working on changing signage and labeling on the menus and expects to have the name transition complete within a month.

The restaurant also is changing its hours. Customers had requested that the restaurant open on Sundays, particularly with Music Theatre of Wichita season underway, so now, Pasta Piazza will be open on Sundays and closed on Mondays. The new hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 11 am. to 8 p.m. Sundays.

For more information, call 316-440-3359.

Celeb chef Josh Marks at Ciao tonight, Thursday

First Fabio. Now this?

Another celebrity chef is making a stop in Wichita this week. Josh Marks, who finished second on the third season of Fox’s show “MasterChef, is in town right now and cooking at Ciao Italian Kitchen, 1720 N. Webb Road.

Marks, a 7-footer who played basketball in college, will be at a meet-and-greet from 6 to 9 p.m. tonight at the restaurant. Then, on Thursday, he’ll cook a four-course fundraising dinner that costs $70 a person. Spots are still available for that dinner and can be claimed by calling 316-613-2426 .

The restaurant will only be serving the four-course meal from 7 to 9 p.m. It will raise money for the Make a Sound project, a suicide-prevention program that Marks supports.

A sneak peek at Siena Tuscan Steakhouse

Every time I’ve driven past the under-construction Ambassador Hotel at Douglas and Broadway over the past few months, I’ve wondered what’s going on behind the paper in the windows.

This afternoon, Marshall Roth, the executive chef at the hotel’s Siena Tuscan Steakhouse, offered to show me.

He gave me a tour first of the 14th floor “Rock Star” suite (amazing), followed by a look at some of the more standard guest rooms plus the hotel’s new banquet and meeting rooms.

Chef Marshall Roth tests out a just-installed banquette in the bar of the about-to-open Siena Tuscan Steakhouse inside the Ambassador Hotel.

We finished the tour at the almost-complete restaurant, where workers were busy putting together bar tables, rolling in new banquette seating and unpacking dishes in the shiny and sparkly kitchen. The dining room is classy and comfortable, with a black/red/grey color scheme. It seats 60, and the bar has another 35 seats.

The plates, bowls, platters and more were the most exciting part for Roth, who said that opening the boxes was like Christmas for him. He spent weeks choosing exactly the right silverware and German made-dishware he wanted. The ones he chose, he said, will give guests a feeling of quality and luxury as soon as they sit down.

Chairs waiting to find their spots inside Siena Tuscan Steakhouse.

He also let me peruse the menu he’s working on, which won’t be set until he does final-stage recipe testing and VIP tastings during the next several weeks. At the moment, it contains several interesting dishes, such as a panzanella salad, first-course pasta dishes such as mushroom risotto, several steaks, a pork osso bucco dish, a seafood stew known as cioppino, and “duck fat fries,” which are French fries cooked in duck fat.

Chef Roth’s beloved German clay dishes, which just arrived.

The restaurant will have a “soft opening” after Christmas, which is for invited guests. Then, it’ll be used as part of the hotel’s grand opening New Year’s Eve event. It should be open for regular service to the public on Jan. 1, Roth said.

Siena Tuscan Steakhouse will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. I’ll update you as construction gets closer to complete.

Westside Ciao’s delay is Sandy’s fault

Initially, owners of Ciao Italian Kitchen – the Italian restaurant whose first location opened last October at 1720 N. Webb — hoped to have the westside counterpart opened by this coming Monday.

But because of Hurricane Sandy, the delivery of some key equipment the restaurant needs has been delayed, a manager said. The new projected opening date is Nov. 19.

The second Ciao is going into the space vacated when Tommy’s closed in April. It had recently been updated, with new carpet and more, so the restaurant didn’t need much remodeling.

The new Ciao will be open for lunch and dinner will offer the same menu as the eastside Ciao. It specializes in large portions of pasta dishes plus pizza, stromboli and more.

I’ll keep you updated on the opening.