What’s new in food: Vinnie’s Neighborhood Italian rolls out new lunch food truck

LUNCH AT LAST: Vinnie's Neighborhood Italian and sister company Cielo Catering have debuted a joint food truck serving fresh Italian lunches. Photo courtesy of The Scheffer Group

For years, says Eric Scheffer, owner of Vinnie’s Neighborhood Italian, regulars have asked him about expanding the restaurant’s hours to include lunch. Now, in collaboration with sister company Cielo Catering’s food truck, fans will have the opportunity to grab a midday bite.

Vinnie’s lunch, which launched Nov. 21, operates Mondays and Tuesdays, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m., in the parking lot of the restaurant’s original 641 Merrimon Ave. location. The menu, notes Scheffer, will offer both staples from Vinnie’s regular menu (fried calamari, mozzarella marinara and Greek salad, among others) and new spins on classic Italian favorites.

“All of my recipes come from generations past and my experience working in small Italian joints as a teenager,” says Scheffer, originally from Brooklyn. “The food truck will deliver some of the existing foods we serve but will also allow us the opportunity to deliver new flavors and new approaches to our existing concepts.”

Recipes usually served as large plates with pasta, such as chicken parmesan or Italian sausage, peppers and onions, are now transformed into hot heroes with portability in mind. “That’s the beauty of a food truck: You can be flexible and creative and offer a multitude of cuisines,” says Scheffer.

Cold sandwiches like Fat Pete’s (capicola, ham, mortadella and genoa salami piled high with vegetables and cheese) and the Tony “No Neck” (fresh mozzarella, beef steak tomatoes, arugula, olive oil and fresh basil) round out the classic Italian menu.

“We are very lucky to have such a strong and loyal following in Asheville. We are always enthusiastic and grateful when we have the opportunity to deliver new experiences that create new fans and welcome them as members of our restaurant family,” says Scheffer.

Visit avl.mx/aeg for additional information.

Open wide

Asheville has a new contest of consumption for all you glory-seeking gluttons: the PIE.ZAA 28 Inches In Your Mouth Challenge. Sounds pretty self-explanatory, right?

“Since we first opened, I have been wanting to do an eating challenge because of the size of our pizza,” says PIE.ZAA founder and owner Tyler Kotch. “We hope to get people from all over the world to attempt our challenge.”

The rules are simple: Individuals have 28 minutes to woof down an entire 28-inch cheese pizza. The massive pie, normally costing $44, will cost nothing to those who complete the challenge. Additionally, those who reign supreme will be entered into the PIE.ZAA Hall of Fame. But be warned: No mere mortal has yet to pass the tasty test.

“No one has successfully completed the challenge yet,” says Kotch. “We had two employees try the challenge, and while they came close, they did not finish. We wish the best of luck to everyone who attempts this challenge, and we look forward to getting more massive, delicious pizza into people’s mouths.”

PIE.ZAA is at 46 Millard Ave. Follow the pizza shop on social media and visit avl.mx/c65 for additional information.

Gladheart, full stomach

Winter may be drawing nearer as the days get shorter, but the Gladheart Farm Fest Market continues to pack as much food, music and activity as you can handle before sundown every Sunday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. through Dec. 11.

Held on an organic community farm, this market is revered for its eclectic mix of local purveyors offering homegrown organic produce, freshly made heritage grain bread, crafted jewelry and more.

In addition to the many provisions available to take home, Gladheart Farm features a number of tasty treats to enjoy while perusing, including wood-fired spelt pizzas and other seasonal goods.

Gladheart also recently introduced tours, hayrides and guided visits to the farm’s goat barn for those looking to experience all of what the farm has to offer.

Gladheart Farm is at 9 Lora Lane. Visit avl.mx/c68 for additional information, including how to become a future vendor.

Coffee for a cause

Since Counter Culture Coffee’s founding in 1995, the company has maintained a tradition of dropping everything, if only just for a moment, to enjoy a cup of coffee together and deepen interpersonal connections. Over time, what once was known as Friday Morning Cuppings evolved into a new tradition named Shift Drink.

Launched in 2022 as an answer to the distance dictated by the pandemic, Shift Drink makes space for both curiosity and generosity through monthly pay-what-you-want pop-ups aiming to raise awareness and funds for nonprofit organizations.

The latest Shift Drink happens to fall on Giving Tuesday, Nov. 29. From 11 a.m.-2 p.m., a portion of all Counter Culture proceeds will go toward The WOW Center: an adult day training center supporting over 200 adults with developmental disabilities ranging in age from 21-83.

Counter Culture Coffee is in the Center for Craft building on the second floor at 67 Broadway. Attendance is free, but registration is recommended. Visit avl.mx/c67 to reserve your spot. 

’Tis the season

What signifies the arrival of the holiday season to you? Is it the cooling temperature? Trees stripped bare of their festive foliage? The looming arrival of in-laws and second cousins at the dinner table? For some in Asheville, the Omni Grove Park Inn’s annual Gingerbread House Competition marks the true beginning of end-of-year revelry.

Each year, dozens of artists from around the country debut their confectionary creations for a shot at cash prizes and national recognition. Beginning Monday, Nov. 28, through Monday, Jan. 2, all entries will be on display for hotel guests and residents alike.

Those not staying at the inn are invited to view the display after 6 p.m. Sundays and anytime Monday through Thursday. Fridays and Saturdays are reserved for resort guests only.

If you’re unable to make it to the display in person, the top 12 finalists of the competition will be revealed, one by one, on the hotel’s Facebook and Instagram pages through “The 12 Days of Gingerbread” from Dec. 1-12.

The Omni Grove Park Inn is at 290 Macon Ave. Self-parking at the inn is available for $25 and valet for day guests is $35; a portion of parking proceeds will benefit local nonprofits. Visit avl.mx/a8y for additional information.

Local chef goes big

Local chef J Chong, formerly a sous chef at Cúrate and most recently known for her Cantonese cuisine pop-ups and presence at tailgate markets, is one of 10 chefs competing on the HBO Max cooking show “The Big Brunch.”

Each chef was selected by host and executive producer Dan Levy (known for his role on “Schitt’s Creek”) for their creativity in the kitchen and commitment to community service.

At the end of the eight-episode series, one chef will go home with a grand prize of $300,000.

All episodes of “The Big Brunch” are currently streaming on HBO Max. Follow J Chong on Instagram at avl.mx/c6e.

A dream come true

Orale’s Bar & Grill, a new Mexican restaurant from owners Salvador and Teresa Garcia, is tentatively set to open in early December.

After Happy Cinco De Mayo closed in late October, the Garcias saw an opportunity to make a lifelong dream a reality by purchasing the vacant restaurant and making it their own.

“It has always been a dream of my dad’s to have his own restaurant,” says Bryan Garcia, son of Salvador and Teresa, who will serve as the restaurant’s general manager. “My whole family has always worked in restaurants, so the restaurant life has always been part of our life.”

Bryan says Orale’s menu will be composed of authentic Mexican dishes and California-style Mexican cuisine. A large dining area with tables and booths will accommodate a family-friendly atmosphere on one side of the restaurant; on the other side, a large bar with flat-screen TVs will be available for those looking to catch a game while sipping a margarita or cerveza.

Orale’s Bar & Grill is at 800 Fairview Road #5C. Stay tuned for updates on an official website and social media presence.

Made in the South Awards

Garden & Gun and partner Explore Asheville recently announced the winners of the magazine’s 13th annual Made in the South Awards at a special ceremony and celebratory dinner held in Asheville.

“We are honored for Asheville to be home to the Made in the South Awards this year and applaud the passion and talent in all participants,” says Vic Isley, president and CEO of Explore Asheville, in a press release. “As a destination nurtured by nature, Asheville’s creative spirit is deeply rooted and ever evolving. From crafted art to craft beer and a thriving culinary scene, we never stop creating who we are.”

These awards celebrate Southern-made products across six distinct categories: home, food, drink, crafts, style and outdoors. Over 800 total entries across all categories were received. Biscuit Head took home top honors in the food category for its buttermilk biscuit mix. The local restaurant’s cathead biscuit mix topped 60 submissions. Another Asheville business, Poppy Handcrafted Popcorn, was named runner-up in the same category for its chai masala popcorn collaboration with Spicewalla.

“Yet again the winners of the Made in the South Awards proved that talent, creativity and passion are alive and well in the region,” says David DiBenedetto, Garden & Gun senior vice president and editor-in-chief, in the same press release. “And there’s no better place to celebrate those admirable qualities than the great city of Asheville.”

Read about Made in the South Awards recipients in Garden & Gun‘s December 2022/January 2023 issue, on newsstands now. Visit avl.mx/c6k for additional information.


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