Late-night bites

CREATIVE LICENSE: Chef Brian Canipelli gets to unleash his imagination on the late-night menu at Cucina24. Pork belly was recently featured among the ever-changing options. Photo by Michael Franco
CREATIVE LICENSE: Chef Brian Canipelli gets to unleash his imagination on the late-night menu at Cucina24. Pork belly was recently featured among the ever-changing options. Photo by Michael Franco

In this installment of correspondent Michael Franco’s continuing exploration of Asheville’s late-night dining scene, he checks out the offerings at Cucina24.

Late-night hours: 10:30 p.m.-1 or 2 a.m.
Dishes: $3-10

Some late-night menus are designed to suit the venue, while others are designed to suit the clientele. The month-old late-night menu at Cucina24 in downtown Asheville was conceived to suit the creative impulses of Chef Brian Canipelli.

Zoe Dadian, the restaurant’s manager, explains: “Brian cooks Italian food all night long, but he is multitalented, and a couple nights he fooled around and started making kung pao cauliflower for the staff. And we’d say, ‘This is incredible, but it has no place on our dinner menu.’ Not because people wouldn’t like it, but because it just doesn’t fit with the restaurant.”

So the team decided to make a place for the imaginative cuisine by staying open late on weekends. While the menu changes from week to week, much like Cucina24’s main menu, Canipelli’s creative spark stays constant. For example, on the night we stopped by, we were treated to a lusciously deep and rich roasted bone marrow accompanied by beef tendon puffs — strips of beef tendon that were boiled for two days, compressed into a terrine-like substance, then sliced and deep fried into airy nuggets. They’re true palate-teasers that leave your mouth searching for the ghost of beef essence that just passed through.

Dadian says past offerings have included banh mi, fried okra with sriracha mayonnaise, tamales and other non-Italian tidbits. The prices are deliberately kept below $10, and cheap PBR and Miller High Life are offered to make it particularly affordable for industry folks and locals at one of the higher-end dining venues in town.

Cucina24 is at 24 Wall St.

What and where are your favorite locally owned late-night eateries? Let us know at food@mountainx.com.

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