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9/3/2013
Restaurant Expected to open early next year; Capano developing new Italian eatery; Will neighbor Charcoal Pit along Concord Pike

By Maureen Milford  The News Journal 9/3/13

The Charcoal Pit has been a landmark on Concord Pike for 57 years, a quintessential American hamburger joint on a Wilmington highway that’s straight out of a Hollywood back lot.

Now, the owners of the popular restaurant with the giant “Soup’s On” sign in the window are bringing a little Euro flavor to the commercial thoroughfare.

Louis J. Capano III, who owns the Charcoal Pit with his father Louis J. Capano Jr., is developing the parcel just south of the hamburger eatery as a casual- dining Italian restaurant that will also have outdoor seating with a fireplace. To operate the restaurant, Capano has teamed up with Eric Sugrue, the managing partner of Big Fish Restaurant Group in Rehoboth Beach. Sugrue’s popular restaurants include a Big Fish Grill in Rehoboth Beach and another on Wilmington’s Riverfront and the Summer House and Salt Air in Rehoboth Beach.

“I think North Wilmington could use a nonchain casual themed Italian restaurant,” said Capano, who also owns the Columbus Inn, a landmark on Pennsylvania Avenue in Wilmington.

The 5,800-square-foot free-standing restaurant designed by Architectural Alliance Inc. of Wilmington is certain to alter the landscape at the southern end of Concord Pike. The development site between the Charcoal Pit and Chandler Funeral Home had been the site of gas station since the mid-1950s. Louis Capano Jr. has owned the Charcoal Pit since 1986 when he bought it from the founders, the Sloan brothers.

Buddy Aerenson, a Wilmington lawyer who has owned a portion of the Fairfax Shopping Center from the Walgreens to Panera Bread for 40 years, said the restaurant will be a nice addition to that section Concord Pike.

“I think it fits,” he said. In something of a first for Concord Pike, the restaurant will have an outdoor seating area that will be screened from the highway. It will have a fireplace and passthrough bar from the inside.

“Everybody loves outdoor seating,” said Mickey Donatello, who owns Lucky’s Coffee Shop and the Corner Bistro in Talleyville. “Anytime I see an independent restaurant go up, I’m happy to hear it. And Louis did such a great job with the [Columbus] Inn.” The interior of the new restaurant, which will seat about 140, will have some rustic elements such as tile and wood to create a warm atmosphere, said Tracey Martel of Martel Interiors LLC in Wilmington, which is handling the interior design. There will be an open kitchen, a market take-out area and the bar will be elevated about six inches, she said. The restaurant is expected to open early next year. A name has not been chosen. According to Capano, the group has been designing the restaurant building for the last eight months so it will stand out. Kevin Wilson, principal at Architectural Alliance, said the structure will be contemporary in design. The exterior will feature copper panels, stainless steel, pre-cast concrete and stone.

The menu has not been finalized, but will include brick oven pizzas, pasta and other Americanized Italian cuisine, Sugrue said.

“It’s won’t be oldschool Italian,” Sugrue said. 

Contact Maureen Milford at 324-2881 or mmilford@delawareonline.com. 

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