Salsarita's founder Bruce Willette is developing a new restaurant venture focused on Italian fare.
The restaurant, called Capishe! Bold Italian Kitchen, will be a fast-casual concept, where food is made fresh in front of customers.
Lease negotiations are under way for three Charlotte-area sites - two in south Charlotte and one in uptown. The first locations could open within six months, Willette says.
Willette sees opportunities for as many as 20 locations in the future, but that will depend on how the restaurant is received.
He initially thought of the concept for Capishe! about five years ago, but said the timing wasn't right for the venture.
"Fast-casual Italian is definitely a growing trend. It's one of the last areas fast casual hasn't been placed," Willette says.
Now, he has teamed up with Peter Reinhart, Johnson & Wales University chef on assignment, to develop the menu. The duo also worked with design firm Little to develop the brand and concept.
"We feel confident with my experience and chef's culinary expertise, we've got our bases covered," Willette says.
He founded Salsarita's Fresh Cantina in Charlotte in 2000. He sold that chain of fast and casual Mexican restaurants in 2011.
Reinhart has developed a menu that will feature pasta entrees, where customers can design their dish. That includes red or white sauce, proteins such as chicken and pepperoni, and vegetables and other ingredients. Dishes are topped with bread crumbs and cheese, and cooked to order in 90 seconds.
Capishe! also will offer make-your-own pizzas, salads and two specialty sandwiches. Jennifer Thomas covers retail, health care and education for the Charlotte Business Journal.
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