Small Bites: Several restaurants sound the lunch bell (another turns not-so-terrible 2)

Hell’s kitchen: Cucina 24’s wood-fired pizza oven in full effect. Photo by Max Cooper

At first, it looked like bad news. Cucina 24 Deli — home to stacked sandwiches on house-made breads and delicious fresh-baked cookies — was closing.

However, all is not lost. Though Cucina 24 Deli is indeed closed (the space is to be used as a private dining area), the restaurant has added lunch service of a different sort, which debuted Tuesday, Feb. 7. The main Cucina 24 dining room once again offers a full menu that includes antipasti offerings, soups and salads, paninis, pasta and wood-fired pizzas. "People want pizza," says owner Brian Canipelli, who hand-tosses his dough to order. The pizzas come out of the oven thin and cracker-crisp. Selections from the opening day menu included deviled farm eggs, cauliflower soup with chestnut honey and San Marzano tomato, mozzarella and fresh basil pizza. Prices range from $4 to $12. Cucina 24 is located at 24 Wall St. Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. For more, visit http://cucina24restaurant.com.

Have you tried Julian’s Gourmet Sandwiches in Biltmore Village? The restaurant serves a delicious smoked-turkey Reuben that alone is worth a visit. Carry-out is available, of course, but the loft-style dining area is charming and cozy. The salads are fresh and the meats are hormone- and preservative-free. Julian’s is located at 1 Boston Way and is open from Tuesday through Saturday, from 10:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. Visit the restaurant’s Facebook page for more information.

The Black Mountain Ale House (in Black Mountain, naturally) is also getting into the lunch game. Starting Monday, Feb. 27., the restaurant will enlist the assistance of one of Matt Helms, one of Black-Eyed Susan Catering’s chefs, to serve a classic Southern soul food lunch menu. Expect to find a daily changing menu of traditional meat-and-three (chicken and dumplings with sweet potato casserole, fried corn with bacon and collards, for example) for $8.50 (the price includes drinks). A meat-and-two is $7. And for the month of February, the lunches are buy-one-get-one free. Geared toward the working and business community, lunch will be prepared fast — the Ale House promises to get your food within 15 minutes or lunch is free. The Black Mountain Ale House is located at 117-C Cherry St. in Black Mountain. Visit http://blackmountainalehouse.com for more.

Also serving lunch in the Biltmore Village is Zoë’s Kitchen, part of a chain of 57 retail locations spanning 12 states. Zoë’s menu features Mediterranean-inspired comfort food served from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. daily. The restaurant is located at 14 Swannanoa River Road. Visit http://zoeskitchen.com for more.

And happy birthday to Vinnie’s Neighborhood Italian, voted Best Italian in the 2011 Xpress Best of WNC readers’ poll. The restaurant turns 2 years old on Saturday, Feb. 18, and is celebrating the milestone by offering customer appreciation specials like free garlic knots for every table. And, should you decide to dress as a “Vinnie” or “Vinnette,” your party will receive two meals for the price of one that night. What’s a Vinnie or Vinette? We’re weren’t sure, so we asked owner Eric Scheffer. Here’s what he said:

“You know, big hair, gold chains, pinkie rings, tacky running suits, My Cousin Vinnie, Sopranos, Goodfellas stuff. This is not meant to offend, [it’s] rather a great time to dress up and discover who your true inner Vinnie/Vinnette is. That cool cat, that street-talking leather-jacket wearing in-crowd dude or dudette. Being from Brooklyn, it is everyone I grew up with — did not matter if you were Jewish, Italian, Puerto Rican, Irish — it was a certain attitude you had about yourself, your neighborhood and yes, I guess, your nationality. It’s about having fun.”

Vinnie’s is located at 641 Merrimon Ave. and open seven nights a week from 5 until 9 p.m. Call 253-1077 or visit http://www.vinniesitalian.com for more information.

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