The hole left by the closing of Mystery Brewing’s brewpub will soon be warmed by a wood-fired oven.
The new restaurant will carry the Napoli name, but will venture beyond the pizza and gelato it serves now from its East Main Street restaurant and popular food truck in Carrboro. It also will feature small plates and entrees, some of which will also be cooked in the wood oven.
The restaurant will be in west Hillsborough, near Hillsborough BBQ and the Nash Street Tavern. Mystery Brewing closed in October after about six years.
Chatelain said the space’s patio and location are ideal for a new pizzeria.
“We were a big fans of Mystery’s beer and were sad when they closed,” Chatelain said. “But we immediately thought that would be a good spot to be in. There’s a huge patio space, which is a big component of what we do.”
After years as a food truck, Napoli opened its first semi-brick and mortar location last fall. The cafe serves gelato, espresso and drinks, while the food truck parks in the gravel lot next door, firing pizzas in moments.
“We call it a deconstructed restaurant,” Chatelain said. “The (Hillsborough) restaurant is going up a little bit, the slightly finer dining version of Napoli. But we want to keep it casual; it’s based around the same pizza.”
Glasshalfull will run the non-pizza side of the kitchen, said co-owner Jim Wald. Tony Del Sarto, executive chef at Glasshalfull, will be a partner in the new restaurant and will largely lead the small plates, salads and entrees, though all owners emphasized this Napoli would be a collaboration.
“It’s not going to be a New York by-the-slice place,” Wald said.
While the Carrboro Napoli serves beer and wine, the Hillsborough restaurant will have a full bar, Chatelain said. With the patio, pizza and snacks, Chatelain said he hopes to conjure feelings of aperitivo hour in Italy.
“Tapping into (Glasshalfull’s) experience is really an asset for us,” Chatelain said.
The venture into Hillsborough comes amidst a month of closings in Carrboro as Milltown and Crossties Bistro and Beer Garden recently announced their closures.
Wald said Carrboro may be near its restaurant limit, while Hillsborough is seeing new development and a popular, but small restaurant scene.
“Hillsborough is a cool walking town, with neat galleries and neat restaurants,” Wald said. “People are still leaving there to go out to eat; I think it’s an area that could easily absorb more places. And I think pizza can make it almost anywhere.”
Napoli has signed a lease for the former brewery space, and Wald said they’re now in the midst of securing permits. The inside will be gutted and renovated, he said, though the space already supporting a restaurant will move things along more quickly. A new brick oven will be installed.
Napoli is also expanding into Durham and is building a location inside the Durham Food Hall. Chatelain said that project is progressing and should open later this year.