Wednesday, 13 September 2017 07:37

Where there’s smoke, there’s food at City Barbeque

Written by  Lee Sullivan
Cary restaurant manager and training team member Al DeCaprio with a ready-to-slice beef brisket. Cary restaurant manager and training team member Al DeCaprio with a ready-to-slice beef brisket. Lee Sullivan

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. -- If the start of football season and the hurricane-fueled swing in temperatures weren’t enough to get your taste buds tingling for the flavors of fall, see if these few phrases highlighting City Barbeque’s approach to preparing a vast selection of meats and side dishes can do the trick:

“The hickory wood is the secret.”

“Low and slow is the only way to go.”

“The fat is the wonder of it all.”

Frank Pizzo, a founder of the 18-year-old restaurant chain and now it’s director of training, used those descriptions and more during a tour and full-course preview of the offerings now available at the just-opened City Barbeque on Hodges Circle in Huntersville, off Gilead Road beside the Famous Toastery and in front of Earth Fare.

The Huntersville location, the 33rd restaurant in the chain that began in 1999 when Pizzo and partners Rick Malir, Jim Burdros, Mike Taylor and John Kean transformed a former doughnut shop in Columbus, Ohio into their vision of a barbecue joint seasoned with a healthy dose of backyard hospitality, opened for business Tuesday. A grand opening celebration in partnership with local chambers of commerce is set for Saturday, Sept. 16, starting at 10:30 a.m.

The specialty meats — beef brisket, pork butts and shoulders, chicken, St. Louis-style ribs, sausage and turkey — are prepared daily in the two custom-built, wood-fired smokers on the building’s exterior. And an assortment of kitchen-crafted side dishes, including corn pudding, baked beans, potato salad, slaw and hand-dipped hushpuppies, are available as well as sweet selections like warm peach cobbler and banana pudding.

Pizzo and Huntersville City Barbeque General Manager John Bush, accompanied by restaurant staffers and members of City Barbeque’s traveling training team, recently conducted a complete tour of the new facility and shared samples of menu items as part of the preparations for Tuesday’s opening.

The finely-tuned, slow-smoking process — ranging from a few hours for chicken up to 18 hours for hefty chunks of dry-rubbed pork and beef brisket — is the restaurant’s primary calling card and a characteristic Pizzo takes great pride in promoting.

“We did our homework,” Pizzo said with a smile during his presentation at the Huntersville location. “We did the difficult job of traveling all over the country, sampling the food and seeing how other places prepared their barbecue before we decided on our method. And we still set out every day to learn something to make it even better.”

The restaurant offers lunch and dinner, with menu options ranging from basic meals to carry-out options to serve large crowds. Full-service catering for weddings, corporate events and big gatherings is a specialty along with bulk orders for tailgating or office lunches.

“You can come in and have lunch, or call ahead for 300 pounds or more,” Pizzo said.

At Saturday’s grand opening, special attractions will include kid’s entertainment and giveaways, as well as visits by Carolina Panther mascot Sir Purr and the Carolina Panthers’ PurrCussion drum line. Customers will also be able to sample a wide selection of smoked meats and other menu items.

Also on grand opening day, 10 percent of all sales will go to support the Lotta Foundation, a local non-profit foundation working to reduce the negative impact poverty and sickness have on adults and children in the local area. In addition, City Barbeque will sell T-shirts for a suggested donation of at least $3, with all of the money from those sales going to the Lotta Foundation.

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