Small Bites

Mama Mia!

Peter Affatato, owner of Nona Mia, is opening a new, casual restaurant on the Patton Avenue side of Haywood Road in West Asheville. The new venture, Pizzeria Ritrovo, will feature Neapolitan-style pizzas, salads and homemade gelato.

Gourmet-to-go: Kenan Hopkins, far left, poses with his employees in front of one of Valet Gourmet’s several gas-efficient vehicles. Photos by Jonathan Welch

"It's going to be very simple in concept," says Afftato of the pizzas he'll be serving. "We'll be using seasonal vegetables for toppings, and serving a couple of classics like the Margherita and pizza Bianco," he says, adding that the Pizzeria Ritrovo will not be the type of spot to stop by for a pepperoni pizza.

The kitchen team, he says, will be using all high-quality Italian flours and San Marzano tomatoes. The staff will busy themselves turning out house-made sausages and other cured meats for pizza toppings, as well as the 15 house-made gelato flavors that will fill the frozen dessert case.

Before Affatato started Nona Mia, he was a partner in 28806 Deli in West Asheville. Though he left that business behind, he hasn't left behind his passion for honest, high-quality deli sandwiches served on fresh-baked bread.

Affatato reports that he plans to eventually turn a portion of Ritrovo into an Italian-style deli that will give customers a lunchtime option — the restaurant initially will be open only for dinner.

"It will be sort of equivalent to what I did when I ran 28806," he says. "I've brought on my old baker from 28806, so we will be offering a full line of artisan breads also. We'll have a rotation of different breads coming out on different days, which will be available to buy at Nona Mia or at the new location."

Affatato hopes to have the new restaurant open by the second week of August. Wednesday through Thursday, the restaurant will be open from 4 until 10 p.m., but will stay open until midnight Fridays and Saturdays. Eventually, says Affatato, Ritrovo will be open on Sundays as well.

Asheville Pizza Wars are on

Local pie-makers are gearing up for the Asheville Pizza Wars. The contest is at least the third food battle to be instigated via Twitter — Asheville-area foodies and restaurateurs active in the social media network already drummed up significant interest in the Onion Soup Wars, fought between chefs from Asheville's Bouchon and Sazerac, among others, earlier this year. The Macaroni and Cheese Cage Match also took place recently — surprisingly enough, no skin burns were reported.

According Gary Charles, the blogger behind AskAsheville, the Pizza Wars, which also sound as though molten cheese injury is a real threat, will be fought between a number of local public-nominated pizza restaurants. At press time, nominated restaurants included the following: Marco's, Circle in the Square, Nona Mia, Barleys, Pomodoros, Iannuccis, Piazza East, Fiores, East Village Grill, Standard Pizza Company, Frank’s Pizza, My Father's Pizza, Earth Fare West and Mellow Mushroom.

The competition, which Charles refers to as the "Asheville pizza party of the year," will be held at the Garage at Biltmore on Saturday, August 14, at 7 p.m. until the wee hours. A panel of pre-selected judges will sample pies provided by each restaurant. Ticket holders will also get the chance to sample all of the pizzas, and then cast the vote for the winner of the people’s choice award.

An evening of entertainment, provided by DJs and musicians, will follow the pizza-gorging session — giving ticket-holders an opportunity to dance off all of that cheese.

At press time, the list of entertainers included Peace Jones and the Dubber, with more to be announced. Families Pursuing Justice will speak about their organization, as well. Several breweries are involved, including Highland, French Broad and Craggie. Skyland Distributing will provide wine and beer. Unlimited samples are included in the price of the ticket (until the booze runs dry). Visit or contact @askasheville on Twitter for more information.

Changes for popular delivery service

Blue Ridge To Go is now Valet Gourmet, says owner Kenan Hopkins, who feels that the new name better represents his company’s attention to detail and focus on customer service.

The company, says Hopkins, is also making every attempt to head in a more eco-friendly direction, using only biodegradable serving utensils and plates. Some are even “super-degradable,” he says, meaning that the item is guaranteed to break down within three to five years.

Additionally, Hopkins says, he is looking into partnering with a company that would plant a tree in a selected third world countriy for every full-priced delivery that the company makes, which Hopkins estimates at approximately 1,500 to 2,000 a month.

Valet Gourmet, says Hopkins, was recently Living Wage Certified by the Just Economics group. The company is making other significant changes to benefit employees and customers alike. To see the full story, visit

Send your food news to Mackensy Lunsford at

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