Melad Stephan buys Caffe Moderne, puts Hopping Pita on hold

The Hopping Pita is closed for now. Future: Uncertain.

Melad Stephan’s Empire Restaurant Management group is in flux at the moment as he tries to prioritize the needs at his various businesses, he said.

About 10 days ago, he said, he finalized a deal to completely buy out Janet and Grant Rine, the founders of Caffe Moderne at 300 N. Mead. Stephan partnered with them in June of 2011 and has been running the restaurant ever since. Now that it’s all his, he’s going to start using its kitchen for his Empire catering business and stop using the one at Revolution Rock Bar.

Another change: He’s put the Hopping Pita, a food truck he started with chef Roni Attari in April, on hold. He wants a bigger, more efficient truck, he said, and he’s put his original truck on Craigslist, asking for $20,000 or the best offer he can get.

He’s also not sure if Attari is still planning to work for him. The chef was interviewing for another job, he said, and he hasn’t heard what the outcome was. (I’ve left two messages for Attari but haven’t heard back.)

Stephan says he plans to reopen the Hopping Pita eventually but that it’s not at the top of his priority list right now.

“I’m so busy, I don’t know which direction I’m going these days,” he said.

As for Caffe Moderne, Stephan said he plans to keep the name and the concept the same. He may eventually get a new sign and plans to add new menu items for fall.

Stephan also owns Sabor and Oeno Wine Bar in Old Town Square. He closed his fine dining Italian restaurant, Luca Italian Kitchen, in August.

Stay tuned for updates on the fate of The Hopping Pita.

The Hopping Pita rolls out on Wednesday

The Hopping Pita, Melad Stephen’s new food truck that will be led by well-known local chef Roni Attari, will officially open on Wednesday.

Attari said he will park the truck near the corner of First and Mosley in Old Town and will open from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The menu, which is peruse-able on the Hopping Pita Facebook page, offers items such as beef and chicken schwarma in pita as well as pitas filled with fish and falafel. There’s also hummus, tabouli, baba ghanoush, baklava and fresh brewed mint tea.

The Hopping Pita owners had hoped to have the truck out much earlier than now but were plagued by several problems, including a broken generator. Attari is still deciding where he’ll park and serve each day, but customers can find the truck via the Facebook page.

As summer approaches, it’s suddenly raining food trucks. Just in the past few weeks, Wichita Brewing Co. & Pizzeria said it would open a food truck called Hopperoni Express within a month. A local German cook said she’ll open Let’em Eat Brats sometime in May. And another pizza food truck, The Rolling Dough, is planned for later this year.

Well-known chef will staff schwarma truck

Melad Stephan has hired Roni Attari to cook in his new food truck.

Old Town Square restaurateur Melad Stephan’s long-awaited food truck should hit the streets sometime next week, and it’ll be staffed by a familiar face.

Roni Attari, who has owned several restaurants in town over the years — most recently Pitas & Paninis at 602 N. Tyler — left a job working in the kitchen at Lakeside Club to cook in the yet-to-be-officially-named truck.

The truck will specialize in authentic Lebanese fare, Attari said. It will have schwarma, hummus, Lebanese soups and rotating specials, among other things. Once launched, the truck will be stationed at a different spot around Wichita every day.

At the moment, Roni and Stephan’s son, Jordan, are working on final details for the truck. They’re designing logos and trying to choose a name from three finalists.

I’ll let you know when the truck is ready to roll.

Schwarma truck on hold till January

Melad Stephan

Local diners are pretty excited for Melad Stephan’s schwarma truck to join the fleet of mobile food businesses in Wichita.

But they’re going to have to wait a little longer. Though he initially said he’d open the mobile Mediterranean food court this fall, Stephan now says he’s going to have to put it off until January.

He’s just too busy trying to open Revolution Rock Bar, which he’s putting the former Air Capital Grill/Whiskey Creek Wood Fire Grill at 233 N. Mosley. He plans to have that business open sometime next week. It won’t serve food but will be open for drinks Wednesday through Saturday evenings, he said. He’ll use the restaurant’s kitchen to work on catering jobs.

He has the truck, Stephan says, but he’s working on getting it painted and outfitted. His son, Jordan, will run it along with a local chef who Stephan is not ready to name yet. The truck will serve chicken and beef schwarma, falafel, hummus, fries, fattouch salads and more.

I’ll update you when Stephan settles on official dates.

A peek at the Luca menu

Luca Italian Kitchen, the new restaurant Melad Stephan opened Friday in the former Uptown Bistro space at 301 N. Mead in Old Town Square, has been getting buzz all weekend.

Four or five local foodies either e-mailed me or told me over the weekend that the food was very good, and all credit the talents of chef Gianluca Sciagata, for whom the restaurant is named. (He makes his own mozzarella, people.)

I’m looking forward to trying it, especially the bistecca Tagliata and the proscuitto e rucola pizza. (Take a look at the full lunch menu and the full dinner menu.)

Starting Wednesday, the restaurant’s hours will be 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays. Tonight and Tuesday, the restaurant is open only for dinner starting at 5 p.m.

Call 316-262-3232 for more information.

New restaurant, new patio, new owner

Luca Italian Kitchen in Old Town Square should be open in about 15 days.

There’s all kinds of news in Melad Stephan’s dining world

Stephan, who owns Oeno and Sabor and the soon-to-open Luca Italian Kitchen in Old Town Square, plus Press out east at the Waterfront at 13th and Webb, recently sold one of his restaurants — Egg Cetera, the breakfast restaurant at 242 N. Mosley that he’s owned since June of 2005. (I’m working on getting information on the new owner. So far, all I know is that his name is Manuel.)

“I just need to not worry at 6 o’ clock in the morning,” Stephan said of his desire to sell the breakfast and lunch restaurant. “I have enough worries from 9 to 2.”

I drove past Luca today, and it’s coming along nicely. Stephan says he hopes to have it open by June 14 or 15. When I visited, workers were painting shelves, and when I peeked inside, I could see that Stephan is reconfiguring the space to make it look different from its former incarnation as Uptown Bistro. The menu is coming together, created by Gianluca Sciagata, the restaurant’s new Italian chef, who moved here from Aspen, Colo. Stephan says he’s most excited about tasting the chef’s homemade mozzarella and homemade pastas.

Sabor's pretty new patio, which faces Old Town Square.

Also, Stephan finally has his patio at Sabor opened, with seating for about 25. It’s a very pretty little patio, and Stephan says he has approval to put one on the front side of Luca as well. He also has obtained approval to expand his Oeno patio all the way back past the side of his new banquet room, and once he prices fencing, he’ll get started on that project.

Once Stephan sends me the Luca menu, I’ll share more details.

Palette to Palate post with pictures

On Saturday, I attended Palette to Palate, a new foodie fundraiser that was co-organized by my friend and colleague Bonnie Bing. It drew more than 200 people for a wine and food tasting and an art and wine auction at the Wichita Scottish Rite and raised a whole buncha money for KETCH.

Several interesting developments came out of the evening. One was that I finally got to meet Paul Freimuth, who recently replaced David Wirebaugh as the head chef at the Hyatt’s Harvest Kitchen/Bar. He brought some fabulous little bites of food, including a polenta crouton with shrimp and Cajun remoulade (I could have eaten the whole tray of those) and a duck canape with mango chow chow and roasted red pepper cream cheese.

Clearly, he’s a good cook, and I’m happy to see that Freimuth is going to make the same kind of effort Wirebaugh did to get involved in charity events.

Chef Paul Freimuth in polenta action.

I also spent some time talking to local restaurateur Melad Stephan, who provided over mini beef Wellingtons, hummus and more from his Uptown Bistro. He had some interesting things to say, which I hope I can elaborate on later this week.

Newport Grill had some great shrimp and eggrolls at the event, and Cero’s and Cocoa Dolce sent over lots of chocolate. The Corporate Hills Marriott sent over a massive ice scupture and put out a raw oyster bar that also included shrimp shooters (above.) And Monica of Monica’s Bundt Cakes provided a nicely decorated KETCH cake.

It also was fun to watch people bidding big money on expensive bottles of wine. Local wine expert Jamie Stratton was there, guiding people through the process.

The group hopes to make the Palette to Palate and annual event, so start saving your auction pennies now.

Melad and me.

KETCH president an CEO Ron Pasmore, Bonnie, Kathy Krumsick and her husband Herb Krumsick, who co-chaired the event with Bonnie.