In March 2012, when Strada Italiano and Social Lounge opened at 27 Broadway, the location was considered cursed, says owner and executive chef Anthony Cerrato. Tingles Cafe, Zoe Rose and Never Blue were among the previous short-lived restaurants that came and went inside the 19th-century building.
But a decade later — and despite a pandemic in the mix — the curse appears to be lifted. On Sunday, March 27, Strada Italiano and Social Lounge celebrates its 10-year anniversary. “We are so grateful for the Asheville community and the team we work with,” says Cerrato. “So many faces and so many hands have helped create Strada’s lasting success.”
As part of the celebration, Cerrato and the Strada team are paying homage to the history of its location with some of the restaurant’s classic dishes. Tuscan duck and figs, pasta Portofino and grilled Florentine ravioli are among the 10 items that will be specially paired with 10 cocktails from the Social Lounge’s original bar menu (back when it operated as Sazerac) through March 27.
For Cerrato, it’s the people at the center of Strada Italiano and Social Lounge most responsible for its success. “I always envisioned Strada to be a heritage business,” he says. “We’ve always promoted from within, so people have a career trajectory within this organization. The whole reason we’re successful is because we’ve empowered our employees and built a great working culture.”
Later this year, Cerrato notes, his latest project, Gemelli, a spin-off of Strada, is slated to open inside the former Green Sage space at the Westgate Shopping Center. Italian for “twins,” the Gemelli name is a loving nod to the twin baby girls the Cerratos welcomed in 2020. This new space will offer a split-service concept, providing both counter service and traditional sit-down dining. Menu features will include fresh grab-and-go pastas, sauces, salads and antipasti, as well as a bevy of beer, wine and cocktail offerings, including six cocktails on tap.
“It’s been an incredible journey, and I like to think we’re not even halfway done,” says Cerrato.
For menu options and reservations, visit avl.mx/bcw.
Elevated Southern cuisine
Join Ivory Road Cafe & Kitchen on Thursday, March 24, 6-9 p.m., for an upscale five-course meal with optional wine pairings. “Southern cuisine can be very humble, so our goal is to elevate it to a more fine-dining experience,” says Jill Wasilewski, owner and chef. Smoked trout roe deviled egg, brown butter cornbread, crispy skin pork belly and more await those ready to heighten their perception of Southern cooking. “We hope that diners try something new, whether it’s a flavor combination or ingredient, and come away with an appreciation for the way food and cuisines evolve over time,” says Wasilewski.
Ivory Road Cafe & Kitchen is at 1854 Brevard Road, Arden. Tickets run $55 per person, $69 with optional wine pairings included. For more information, visit avl.mx/bcs.
Wild spring greens
Root Cause Farm will co-host a foraging and cooking class alongside Red Moon Herbs on Sunday, March 27, 1-5 p.m. Led by Red Moon Herbs’ Jeannie Dunn, this workshop will instruct attendees on how to identify wild spring greens and how to incorporate them into one’s diet.
“We want people to take away an appreciation and knowledge of the edible plants native to Western North Carolina,” says Becca Malloy, outreach and development coordinator for Root Cause Farm.
The workshop will conclude with a potluck, including a chickweed-based pesto and violet syrup made with herbs picked fresh from the farm’s garden.
The event is free to attend, although donations are encouraged. Root Cause Farm is at 26 Joe Jenkins Road, Fairview. Visit avl.mx/bct for more information.
Taco Billy expands eastward
After launching in West Asheville in 2015, Taco Billy recently announced plans to expand eastward. In June, the restaurant plans to open a second location in Black Mountain at 117 Cherry Street.
“Black Mountain chose us,” says owner Hunter Berry. “A friend acquired the building last year, and when I first entered the space, I felt a pull which led me to sign a lease agreement.”
While the location and trappings will differ from what Taco Billy fans have become accustomed to (the Black Mountain venue will have no outdoor area but more indoor seating), the menu will remain unchanged, using the same food vendors to keep its brand consistent. “We are planning to provide the community of Black Mountain with tacos filled with high-quality ingredients at a good value in a space that fosters fellowship,” says Berry.
Taco Billy is at 201 Haywood Road. For more information and updates on the Black Mountain expansion, visit avl.mx/bcu.
Indigenous food sovereignty
The Museum of the Cherokee Indian recently announced its spring lecture series. With in-person and virtual events, Cherokee innovators, advocates and culture keepers will speak and educate on the theme of food sovereignty. “With this series, we hope to look at the importance and impact of traditional foods and foodways amongst Indigenous people,” says Jenn Wilson, MCI Aniyvwiyahi community program coordinator.
On Monday, March 28, Nico Albert (ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ), owner and executive chef of Burning Cedar Indigenous Foods, will be providing a live lecture on MCI’s YouTube page discussing food sovereignty and preparing Indigenous dishes. A Q&A session with MCI staff will follow Albert’s lecture.
Visit MCI’s YouTube page on Monday, March 28 at 6 p.m. to attend the session.
Yoga, tacos and mimosas
Yoga, tacos, mimosas … what’s not to love? Stop by The Grey Eagle on Sunday, March 27, for a yoga session, held 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., led by Clare Desmelik. Afterward, participants are encouraged to enjoy tacos and mimosas in the taqueria. While in The Grey Eagle’s newly redesigned space, be sure to take note of the music venue’s renovated front-facing signage, new paint job and mural from local artist Ian Wilkinson.
The Grey Eagle is at 185 Clingman Ave. Yoga Taco Mosa is a free event; a $5-$10 donation is suggested. For more information, visit avl.mx/prwn.
Carolina Mountain Cheese Fest returns
Originally scheduled for spring, the WNC Cheese Trail’s annual Carolina Mountain Cheese Fest is now slated for Sunday, Sept. 25, at Oak and Grist Distilling Co. in Black Mountain.
“We want everyone to fully and safely participate in all that the Cheese Fest offers, like tastings and pairings, and the majority of cheesemakers felt unable to do so at this time due to staffing and supply chain issues,” says the WNC Cheese Trail in an email to its members. The WNC Cheese Trail has also partnered with Loyal Brew to build a new app designed to make the Cheese Trail more interactive and community friendly. WNC Cheese Trail’s app is free to use and accessible directly through web browsers.
The festival is currently seeking volunteers.
Dinner with Materra Cunat Family Vineyard
Bottle Riot welcomes Brian Noshay of Materra Cunat Family Vineyards for an exclusive dinner on Wednesday, March 23, at 7 p.m. Materra is known for its commitment to environmental sustainability and carefully cultivating soil, climate and water for its grapes. Five separate award-winning wines from Materra’s Oak Knoll District Napa Valley winery will be paired with food prepared by Bottle Riot, including lobster and gruyere mini grilled cheeses, grilled pork tenderloin and several canapés and family-style boards. All wine served during the dinner will also be available for purchase, following the event.
Bottle Riot is at 37 Paynes Way. Tickets run $90 per person. For tickets and additional information, visit avl.mx/bd7.