A long time ago, in times before COVID-19, my friends and I used to spend every Saturday morning at a small Italian-American place in NoDa.
On the menu at Red House Cafe were blueberry pancakes and bottomless simmered coffee. The conversation took place beside the brick fireplace lit by candles, accompanied by the clink of silverware and accents of Jersey emanating from the kitchen.
There was a walk-in window for ordering ice cream in the summer, and dinners could be spent enjoying fettuccine alfredo, meatball subs, or chicken parm. Red House even boasted a $110 burger when it opened in 2017.
The restaurant did not last long — since February 2020, we know the (now blue) house as Oh My Soul, the vegan bistro with a South African vibe, animal lover and draws visitors from across the city.
Italian musical chairs
NoDa wouldn’t be long without an Italian spot. Orto soon arrived, tucked away on the corner of a small mall next to the Lynx Blue Line, near Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and Idlewild. Another Italian spot? people were thinking back then. The last one didn’t… well, the last one.
In October 2021, the owners of Crepe Cellar, a European-style gastropub, announced big news about a neighborhood favorite: it would be closing and in its place would be a new Italian restaurant, Ever Andalo.
Then in December, Orto announced it would be closing after being open for less than a year.
As if that weren’t enough to keep up, news last week that the contemporary, casual Menagerie Hospitality Group Italian restaurant where Orto had closed seemed like the icing on the Italian pie for Charlotteans.
- “Area is going to be ‘little NODALY,'” Steve Odren wrote on CharlotteFive’s Instagram post.
- “An Italian restaurant is going where an Italian restaurant has just closed? It makes a lot of sense…” Noah Meador said.
- “Yet another Italian restaurant in NoDa? How about some variety? asked Natalia Roman.
[Related: A new Italian restaurant is going into the former Orto space in Charlotte]
Charlotte’s Little Italy?
So what’s the deal, fam? Are there too many Italian restaurants playing musical chairs in NoDa, or are we ready to embrace it and give the Arts District a (second) moniker of Charlotte’s NODALY?
In addition to the rotation of Italian restaurants, NoDa offers many pizzas. Among them:
I’ll admit my bias up front: I could eat Italian food every day for the rest of my life and probably never get sick of it. When I first visited Little Italy in New York, I knew I had found a new favorite spot. I dream of one day retiring to an Italian hill town, spending my last years drinking cappuccinos, eating bruscetta, pizza, pasta and ice cream… and maybe even learning to taste the Campari.
Back home in Charlotte, I could order Inizio or Capishe every night. I make Caprese salads for lunch on regular and dry Italian reds are my favorite on any wine list. Would Eataly ever come here? I wonder sometimes.
If NoDa were to become the neighborhood for Italian cuisine, I could see this:
- The bistros, ristorantes, pizzerias and osterias lining the streets;
- Warm, cozy spots where Montepulciano flows like water and Cacio e Pepe is served in parmesan bowls (like those pictured above) with freshly baked bread;
- Walk-in windows with gelato to help soften our humid southern summers; and of course :
- Artists in the Arts District paint streetscapes to the beat of Italian music that passes through the neighborhood.
DISCLAIMER: That’s not to say I wouldn’t miss all the wonderful (non-Italian) restaurants and bars in the area. A NoDa without Beaudreaux, Haberdish, Salud or JackBeagles would be too weird and wrong. In my vision, there should be room for them all!
Charlotte’s Italian food scene
NoDa isn’t Charlotte’s only neighborhood with an Italian flavor – just a few miles from Little NODALY, Plaza Midwood has long been affectionately known as Pizza Midwood.
Pizza Midwood doesn’t seem confined to Central Avenue either — in April 2021, we reflected on new pizzerias across the city. Since publication, the list has grown steadily – from pub pizza to pizza at a walk-in window, you can get a big pizza of any style in Charlotte these days. (It’s Love!)
[Related: There’s an explosion of pizza in Charlotte. And we’re not mad about it.]
A year before the last pizza rush, in January 2020, CharlotteFive wrote about the city’s plethora of new Italian restaurants. North Italia, Volo, Cicchetti and Indaco were among those that had recently opened.
“There’s the old saying, ‘Who doesn’t love Italian food?’ Cicchetti owner Pierre Bader told C5’s AW Geiger at the time. “It’s just one of those things – I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like Italian food. People will always love it. »
And more Italian spots are on the way — national chain Piada Italian Street Food will debut in North Carolina with at least two restaurants in Charlotte, the Observer reported Monday morning.
What do you think?
Now that I’ve talked about my love for Italian cuisine, I want to know what you think.
Email us at email@example.com and let us know: Should we embrace all pasta, pizza and wine – or do you say sufficientalready?