Hassan Ballout to open Albero Cafe in former Bocconcini Italian Eatery space

WICHITA — A new Italian restaurant is opening in the former Bocconcini Italian Eatery space near Central and Oliver, and many Wichitans will recognize the owner.

“I’m going independent,” says Hassan Ballout, who has been at Bella Luna Cafe on East Central for a decade.

“I’m going to open my own little show.”

Ballout is Lebanese, but he says, “I love Italian food.”

He plans to call the restaurant Albero Cafe.

Ballout says “albero” means “tree” in Italian.

“My last name, Ballout, means oaks, an oak tree,” he says.

Also, Ballout says, his daughter and niece like the name, so that won over some others he was considering.

In addition to working at Bella Luna, Ballout has also worked for the Hyatt Regency Wichita and Latour Management.

“You can only grow so much with any company,” he says.

At Albero Cafe, Ballout says he’ll focus on paninis and lots of pasta for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. There’s a chance for some Sunday hours, too.

The 50-seat restaurant will have a full bar.

The space, which originally was home to Sugar Sisters Bakery & Cafe, has been empty since Nathan Toubia closed Bocconcini last summer.

Ballout says he’s remodeling, and he hopes the restaurant will be ready to open in about six weeks. That, of course, could be flexible, he says.

“You know how construction goes.”