After five years downtown, Cucina24 is reinventing itself — at certain times, anyway.
If you usually do your dining before 10 p.m., you won't notice any difference to the restaurant. “What we try to do is take the idea of what Italian cooking is and apply it to ingredients that we have in Western North Carolina,” says chef/owner Brian Canipelli “There's Southern influence, I guess, within ingredients, but we try to stick with techniques and traditions of Italy.”
But come in after 10 p.m. on Friday or Saturday, and the menu will change entirely. “All of us cooks in the kitchen enjoy cooking things that we can't necessarily put on the menu — there's not a place for it ,” Canipelli says. “[The late-night menu] is a way for us to mess around a little bit and cook some things that we can't sell — or shouldn't sell — on our [dinner] menu.”
Canipelli says it’s important for chefs to submit to the identity of their restaurant, even if that means limiting their creativity. Thus, the Italian concept will continue to define dinners at Cucina24, while the late-night menu, which could become available during the week, will be unpredictable.
Does that mean experimental? Not exactly, Canipelli says. “I don't really like putting names on things.”
Expect small plates of kung pao cauliflower — that's tempura-fried cauliflower with spicy peanuts and basil. When he launched the menu last weekend, he devoted an entire section to toast, sometimes topped with pimento cheese, others with avocado and egg.
The plates should run $10 or less, Canipelli says. Wash it down with a craft cocktail from bartender Charlie Hodge (formerly of Chestnut).
The late-night menu is targeted in part toward the service industry crowd, Canipelli says. “You can do all this advertising, and you can get all these reviews, but to me, if cooks come in here and eat on their day off, then we're doing things the right way.”