Contractor Larry Cook files mechanics lien against YO-B owner Nabil Bacha

WICHITA — Contractor Larry Cook has filed a mechanics lien against YO-B owner Nabil Bacha for $87,882.

On the advice of his attorney, Cook says he won’t comment, but Bacha has plenty to say.

“The construction was embarrassing,” Bacha says of Cook’s work on the new Old Town Square restaurant, which opened in February in the former Luca Italian Kitchen space, which previously was Uptown Bistro.

Bacha, who also owns Cafe Bel Ami, says it took Cook “seven months to do four walls” during which time he saw three other area restaurants either renovated or opened.

“I don’t know why that’s such a hard time for him to do. Maybe he should not be in the construction business to start with.”

Cook’s attorney, Frank Ojile, doesn’t address specific claims by Bacha, but he says that “basically, we deny his claims.”

“My client hasn’t been paid, and we filed the mechanics lien, and I probably won’t have further comment … because of possible future litigation.”

Bacha says renovating the space for YO-B, a burger and yogurt restaurant, was supposed to be an $80,000 project and was to be completed by Oct. 15.

Cook “never delivered,” Bacha says.

“I had to have him redo so many things that were wrong,” he says. “Nothing was going right.”

Bacha says he paid almost $79,000 and then Cook told him he needed more money. Bacha says Cook kept changing the amount.

Bacha says he pointed out issues with the bill, and he says Cook told him he would take care of them. Instead, Bacha says, he got the lien.

“All of a sudden, that’s what I saw.”

In addition to saying he doesn’t owe Cook anything more, Bacha says he lost a lot of money due to the delays, and he’s left disillusioned with the process.

“I’m professional. I have never been through something like this.”

YO-B still opening in Old Town Square

WICHITA — Cafe Bel Ami owner Nabil Bacha is still planning to open YO-B in the former Luca Italian Kitchen space in Old Town Square, but when?

“Good question,” he says.

Bacha says he’s no closer to naming an opening date than when he announced the venture in August.

First, he thought the gourmet burger and yogurt business would open in mid October. When that didn’t happen, Bacha predicted mid November. That’s not going to happen, either.

“I would hate to tell anybody anything because I already failed twice,” Bacha says.

He says a reasonable guess would be December.

“Things are going very slowly right now.”

Bacha says he has many things on order.

“We’ve taken everything out, and we’re redoing everything.”

Yo-B diners will have the option of ordering from a kiosk. Bacha says he’s trying to be trendy and appeal to young customers.

“It is just a simple concept,” he says.

Opening, though, is not so simple, and that’s why Bacha says “it’s just kind of scary to pinpoint a date.”

Luca Italian Kitchen closes; YO-B to open

UPDATED — Melad Stephan has sold his Luca Italian Kitchen.

Another downtown restaurateur, Nabil Bacha, took possession of it this afternoon.

“We wanted to bring something a bit different,” says Bacha, who owns Cafe Bel Ami at 229 E. William.

He considered doing something possibly called Bel Ami Bistro, which would have been similar to Stephan’s popular Uptown Bistro that was at the entrance to Old Town Square before Luca.

Bacha decided that’s too much like what is already in Old Town, though.

“They’re all competing against each other,” he says of sit-down restaurants there. “There’s just too many.”

Bacha decided to go another route with yogurt, custard and one really, really tasty burger, which he says will be similar to the popular In-N-Out Burger on the West Coast.

The name is tentatively YO-B, for yogurt and burgers.

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Deal to buy Luca Italian Kitchen falls through, but Pho Hot Bistro owner Danny Nguyen still looking to open in Old Town

WICHITA — Restaurateur Melad Stephan is back from an overseas trip, so now it’s possible to ask about a little situation that happened with his Luca Italian Kitchen a few weeks ago.

Luca, the Old Town restaurant that replaced Stephan’s once-popular Uptown Bistro, has struggled since opening in 2011. It briefly closed around the time Stephan left for his native Lebanon and a European tour, but the closure wasn’t related to the trip.

Stephan had been negotiating for months with Pho Hot Bistro owner Danny Nguyen to sell him the restaurant.

Nguyen’s Vietnamese restaurant is at 306 N. Rock Road, and he’s interested in having one in Old Town as well.

“We just couldn’t come to an agreement,” Stephan says.

He says he thought the deal would go through, so he stopped ordering food. Stephan says when the sale didn’t happen, he’d already run out of food and had to briefly close.

Nguyen isn’t discussing what happened.

Luca is now open for dinner only. Stephan says he’s saving money by not having to pay for lunch labor. He says the restaurant will remain open, though he adds his standard line: “Everything I have is for sale for the right price.”

Nguyen says he’s still interested in coming downtown.

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Gianluca Sciagata is no longer at Luca Italian Kitchen but name won’t change

UPDATED — Last year when Melad Stephan told Have You Heard? the name of his new Old Town restaurant would be Luca Italian Kitchen after Chef Gianluca Sciagata, he acknowledged that Sciagata might not stay forever but that the name would.

“Ahhh, well, the name will stay,” Stephan said, quickly adding, “I hope he’s going to be around for a while.”

He didn’t stay long, though.

Stephan says Sciagata, who came from Aspen, Colo., was not happy in Wichita and has left the restaurant.

Former Ya Ya’s Eurobistro Chef Damon Stephens is now the Luca chef.

Stephan says the name won’t change because Sciagata “doesn’t have the trademark on (the) Luca name.”

 

Melad Stephan to debut Schwarma Truck

WICHITA — You knew it was just a matter of time.

The ubiquitous Melad Stephan has done just about everything else related to food – bars, restaurants, catering – so naturally now he’s going to have a food truck, too.

“I’m pretty much about 90 percent done with the deal,” he says.

He hopes to debut his Schwarma Truck in November. Stephan plans to sell dishes popular in his native Lebanon, including chicken and beef schwarma, gyros, falafel, hummus and fattoush, among other things.

Like the other popular food trucks spinning about town, Stephan will rotate his among businesses and events.

“We’ll definitely want to do one day in Old Town and compete with myself, right?” he says, joking about his Old Town businesses – Sabor Latin Bar & Grille, Luca Italian Kitchen, Oeno Wine Bar, Caffe Moderne, the coming Revolution Rock Bar and his Empire Catering at Eaton Place.

“I got too much going on, don’t I?” Stephan says. “Honestly, it’s just one of my kid’s idea.”

His son Jordan, 21, will operate the truck.

“He’s been bugging me about it for a couple of months,” Stephan says. “I’m just going to let him live the American dream.”

The food business is not Stephan’s dream for his children.

“I didn’t think I wanted any of my kids to do what I do,” he says.

It’s happening anyway, at least with one of them.

“I don’t know, must be in the blood or something,” he says.

Melad Stephan to open Revolution Rock Bar and move Empire Catering into Eaton Place

WICHITA — Melad Stephan is growing his Old Town empire, literally and figuratively.

Stephan’s Empire Catering is moving into Eaton Place at Douglas and St. Francis where Eaton Steakhouse used to be.

“We’re really going to attack the catering big time,” he says.

Instead of spending money to put in a kitchen there, Stephan is taking over the former Whiskey Creek space, which most recently was the Air Capital Grill, to use that kitchen for all his catering.

In the front of that space, which is at 233 N. Mosley, Stephan is putting in a bar called Revolution Rock Bar.

The building isn’t as visible as some restaurants in Old Town.

“It’s more like a bar-hopping place,” Stephan says of that area. “By putting a bar in there, it fits right in there with the other bars.”

Unlike Stephan’s Oeno Wine Bar in Old Town Square, which caters to an age 30-and-up crowd, Revolution will cater to a younger set.

“We’re going to do some exciting things in the front of the building to attract people in,” Stephan says. “We’re going to play music from the ’80s and things like that.”

He’ll have a DJ and show music videos on the wall.

The bar should open by early October.

Stephan hopes to open at the Eaton by early September.

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Italian Bistro to open in former Restaurant 155 space at First and Market

WICHITA — A third new Italian restaurant is coming to Wichita.

Kas Zendeli, who owns Bravo’s Italiani in Valley Center, is opening Italian Bistro in the former Restaurant 155 space in the Market Centre downtown at First and Market.

This follows news from Melad Stephan, who is opening Luca Italian Kitchen in his former Uptown Bistro space in Old Town Square later this month.

Bocco Deli owner Nathan Toubia, who used to work for Lidia’s in Kansas City, also is opening an Italian restaurant. His as-of-yet-unnamed business is coming soon to the former Sugar Sisters Bakery & Cafe space near Central and Oliver.

Zendeli, who is Albanian, plans a traditional Italian menu for his new restaurant. He’s keeping his Valley Center restaurant, too.

Is he a glutton for punishment having two restaurants in two cities?

“Every business is punishment,” Zendeli says. “Since 1969 I’m in this punishment.”

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Melad Stephan chooses a name for his new Italian bistro: Luca Italian Kitchen

WICHITA — Melad Stephan has settled on a name for his new Italian restaurant, which will open in the middle of May where his Uptown Bistro used to be in Old Town Square.

Luca Italian Kitchen is named for Gianluca Sciagata, the restaurant’s new Italian chef, who’s coming via Aspen, Colo.

So what will happen when Sciagata one day leaves the restaurant?

“Ahhh, well, the name will stay,” Stephan says.

He adds, “I hope he’s going to be around for a while.”