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.

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Bocconcini Italian Eatery and Bocco Deli to reopen this week after temporary hiatus

WICHITA — Nathan Toubia’s Bocconcini Italian Eatery and Bocco Deli have been closed since late last week, but he expects them to reopen by Wednesday or Thursday.

He says there are several reasons behind the temporary shutdowns.

“Mostly it was just catching up on paperwork, and I had the opportunity to get out of town,” Toubia says.

He says he couldn’t leave the businesses in the hands of staff.

“I lost a couple of cooks — a couple of key employees.”

Toubia says he handled a personal matter that needed his attention and then was able to take a good trip with his children to see family. He says he hasn’t had the opportunity to do that since opening Bocconcini a couple of years ago.

You don’t say

“I create them. I don’t follow them.”

Bocconcini Italian Eatery and Bocco Deli Chef Nathan Toubia, who admits he has a hard time following recipes

Southeast corner of Central and Oliver ready for development, including a restaurant

WICHITA — It’s been a long time coming, but developer Christian Ablah has acquired an entire city block on the south side of Central near Oliver and is preparing the property for development.

“I’m just basically preparing this for future development,” says Ablah, a broker with his family’s Classic Real Estate.

“I’m just trying to clean up the area,” he says. “The project’s taken a lot longer than I thought it ever would.”

Ablah is close to a deal with a restaurant that would go in the former Dillons store on the southeast corner of the intersection.

There’s talk that it could be a certain Mexican restaurant looking to expand.

“I can’t do the guessing game, but I can tell you it is a sit-down restaurant,” Ablah says.

Part of his demolition of nearby duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes is to make room for parking for the restaurant.

“All the demolition will be complete in a couple of weeks,” Ablah says.

He says any new development will complement what Nathan Toubia is doing with his Bocconcini Italian Eatery next to the former Dillons.

Ablah hopes to close on the restaurant deal in a couple of weeks, but he’s working on other leases as well.

“There’s a lot of demand right now for office — large office space — as well as retail,” Ablah says.

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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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Nathan Toubia to open Italian restaurant in former Sugar Sisters Bakery & Cafe

WICHITA — Bocco Deli owner Nathan Toubia confirms what Have You Heard? reported last week:

He’s opening a second restaurant in July in the former Sugar Sisters Bakery & Cafe space near Central and Oliver.

The concept will be different than Bocco Deli, which sells soup, sandwiches and salads.

The new place will be Italian.

“This will be more full-scale pasta dishes,” Toubia says. “A lot of the dishes that I did . . . when I worked at Lidia’s in Kansas City.”

There will be fresh pasta, cannelloni and steak.

“Everything Italian.”

The new restaurant is as of yet unnamed.

“I’m not fully committed on the name,” Toubia says. “It’s a big decision.”

Bocco Deli will remain open as well with shorter hours. The new hours, which are effective now, will be 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Toubia is remodeling the former Sugar Sisters space, which had a pink-and-brown color scheme and a large counter along the south wall.

He’s altering the counter area to create more seating. Currently, there are about 50 seats in the restaurant. When Toubia is through remodeling, there will be about 60.

He’s opening the kitchen area as well, and there will be a window where diners can see into the kitchen.

Toubia is a tad coy when asked about other future restaurants.

Will this be it?

“For now, yes.”

So does that mean perhaps he’d like a restaurant empire similar to his late father Antoine’s?

“Well, yeah,” Toubia says. “I think that’s what I was meant to do, so we’ll see where it takes me.”

Nathan Toubia is working on a second restaurant deal

WICHITA — It looks like Bocco Deli owner Nathan Toubia, son of the late restaurateur Antoine Toubia, is working on opening a second restaurant.

He opened Bocco Deli in the former Zoomdweebie’s Tea Bar space at 3010 E. Central in November.

His new restaurant — if the deal comes together — would be in the former Sugar Sisters Bakery & Cafe space.

Sugar Sisters closed its 3-year-old restaurant in January.

There’s no official word yet, but it sounds like Toubia might open a new concept — not another Bocco Deli — and a bar.

Look for news on a possible deal within a week or so.

Nathan Toubia opens Bocco Deli in former Zoomdweebie’s Tea Bar space

nathanUPDATED — Another Toubia has opened a restaurant. This time, it’s Nathan Toubia, son of the late restaurateur Antoine Toubia.

Last year, Nathan Toubia opened a catering business called Bocconcini, which means small mouthfuls in Italian, with an eye toward opening a restaurant.

Now, after a whirlwind last week or two, he has.

Bocco Deli opened Monday in the former Zoomdweebie’s Tea Bar space at 3010 E. Central.

“I had to flip this thing so fast,” Toubia says. “I just kind of fell into this spot.”

The 1,100-square-foot space can seat 36. It will be open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

Instead of the catering he’d been doing, Toubia will focus on box lunches and party trays, particularly for nearby Wesley Medical Center and doctors’ offices.

Toubia will serve soups, salads, sandwiches and pasta, “all with kind of an Italian twist.”

He’ll make his own focaccia and flatbread.

The Toubia family is Lebanese — Antoine Toubia came from Lebanon and opened a number of successful restaurants here — but Nathan Toubia is more interested in Italian cooking.

He worked for Lidia’s in Kansas City while going to culinary school.

“I’ve kind of learned the Italian food, and that’s what I like to do.”

So what would his father think?

“I think he would like it. It’s definitely a good start.”

Antoine Toubia’s son opens Bocconcini catering

nathanWICHITA — One of Antoine Toubia’s sons is back in business in Wichita.

Nathan Toubia is the only one of five sons of the late founder of Latour Management to still be in Wichita.

A few years ago, the sons had a well-publicized split from the business that their aunts still run.

“We get along, and we left it as business, and it never affected our personal relationship,” Nathan Toubia says.

He had been working for Lidia’s in Kansas City but returned a year ago and worked for Latour’s food operation at Wichita Collegiate School.

Now, he’s started his own catering company: Bocconcini.

Toubia hopes his business one day grows into a restaurant.

“It is a difficult time to open a restaurant with the state of the economy,” he says. “Hopefully with a brighter economy and love of my food and service, a restaurant will be in the works.”

Toubia will focus on fresh pastas like Lidia’s makes.

“I just think that Wichita lacks any really good Italian restaurants.”