There is a lot of hype surrounding the Asheville restaurant scene these days, what with television shows filming here and articles popping up on a weekly basis in major national publications, and one advantage of leading guided food tours around the city on a daily basis is that we get to see what is happening behind all the hype, both at the Asheville restaurants and bars being featured variously and at the spots that do their thing quietly, without getting swept up in the media swirl. With three Best Chef in the Southeast Beard semifinalists this year it is clear that a lot of the goodly gastronomical creativity going on in Asheville’s food and beverage arena is getting noticed, but there is still a lot happening that escapes the old radar screen.
One of the best examples of great Asheville food and drink that doesn’t get a lot of media play is coming from Cucina 24. Here, executive chef and owner Brian Canipelli maintains a tenor of calm focus on what’s cooking that translates into the attitude of the staff and the vibe of the restaurant, situated on historic Wall Street in downtown Asheville. You don’t see Cucina or Canipelli featured in a lot of the press surrounding the Asheville culinary world, but you do find Brian in the open kitchen almost every day with his brother and sous chef Brad, and a small staff of some of the best line chefs in Asheville preparing a daily menu that starts every morning except for Mondays. These guys are as farm to table as it gets, applying super authentic Italian technique to the ingredients of Appalachia.
Every day I get to lead a guided food tour into Cucina 24 is an exciting glimpse into a great restaurant churning away. When we walk in, there are stocks cooking, breads baking, pasta being made, vegetables getting pickled, meats getting cured and chefs who are clearly having fun doing there thing. Brian is always happy to share something cool that is going on, whether it means busting open a live sea urchin or grating some bottarga for us to taste. Each night’s menu is the result of a full day of cooking that results in really amazing ingredients, presented with subtle finesse true to Italian tradition. On top of it all, they have a bar program that follows the same guidelines, helmed by Donnie Pratt. Donnie’s cocktail program rivals any in the city, with inventive new drinks and classics featuring as many handmade ingredients as is possible. The drinks are hard to pass on in spite of the great all-Italian wine list, featuring all small production, natural bottlings.
If you eat at Cucina 24, you know all of this. But if you don’t, you should definitely get over there the next time you get to wine and dine in Asheville. Canipelli and his team are making food as good as it gets, and you won’t find out about them by reading magazines and internet articles. This group is in the game for the sole purpose of cooking, letting the plates speak for themselves. Cucina 24 is open for dinner Tuesday-Sunday, featuring pasta, brick-oven pizza, oysters and seafood, whole animals butchered in house, housemade cheeses and charcuterie, amazing desserts and super fresh drinks. See you there.
Follow Eating Asheville to find out about Cucina 24’s upcoming Spring Tiki Party, to be announced soon