By Alexa Epitropoulos | [email protected]
Alexandria Restaurant Partners principal Scott Shaw and business partner Dave Nicholas aren’t afraid of the so-called curse at 100 King St.
The restaurant group, which owns Vola’s and The Majestic and operates Virtue Feed & Grain and Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap in Alexandria, recently signed a lease on the building at the intersection of King and Union streets. The prior tenant, U.K.-based restaurant chain Carluccio’s, abruptly vacated the space in June.
Shaw and Nicholas plan to open a 180-seat restaurant, called Mia’s Italian Kitchen, in early January.
The inspiration for the concept is rooted in family for Nicholas. His great-grandmother, with whom he spent summers during his childhood, was from Naples, Italy. Although she didn’t speak a word of English, they communicated through food – something Nicholas became passionate about.
“She spoke no English, but we communicated when I stayed there during the summers. I watched her cook. She used easy, simple, raw ingredients,” Nicholas said.
The menu for Mia’s, though still in development, is built around Nicholas’ childhood experiences. It will include made-in-house pastas and Sicilian-style square pizzas, which will also be available by the slice. Italian sandwiches, charcuterie and some of the staples at Lena’s, like the all-beef meatball, will also be on the menu. “Sunday gravy” – the Italian-American tradition of red sauce that cooks for a number of days – will also be featured at Mia’s.
The first floor, which was formerly used as the market space for Carluccio’s, will be converted into a bar area, with a wood-fired pizza oven.
Nicholas said customers can expect pizza by the slice and wine by the glass in a casual setting. The second floor will be used for sit-down dining.
“We want to have a homey, comfortable feel where someone will walk in wearing shorts and flip flops and have a slice and glass of wine,” Nicholas said. “We also want to be the place where you can come for dinner when you’re on a date and have homemade, fresh-made pasta.”
Shaw said Mia’s plans to tap into a similar customer base as Vola’s, the seafood restaurant located just a block away from 100 King.
“The way you get locals back is if you have great service and it’s not expensive,” Shaw said. “We don’t want to be their special occasion restaurant. We want to be the place that people can come out to without thinking on a Tuesday night, especially in January or February.”
Nicholas has been ruminating on Mia’s for a number of years – and, even before the space was vacant, he thought 100 King would be the ideal setting. Alexandria Restaurant Partners began its venture into Italian with Lena’s, which the Yates family and ARP opened in 2015. That began to “scratch the itch” for Nicholas, but it didn’t mean the restaurant group was done with Italian.
“This is a chance to do more and at a very high level,” Nicholas said.
It’s not the first time 100 King has housed an Italian restaurant. The Landini Brothers operated Italian restaurant Pellicano in the space during the 1970s, but later opted to move across the street to 115 King St., where their eponymous restaurant remains.
Shaw and Nicholas said, however, there’s room for many Italian restaurants on lower King Street.
“One of the questions we get is ‘isn’t there enough Italian?’ I always ask ‘have you ever been to the north end in Boston?’ More great restaurants bring more customers,” Shaw said.
As for the curse, though, Shaw won’t lose sleep over it.
“In our mind, there’s no curse on the space.”