We spend a lot of space writing about new restaurants opening (so many of them now), and the really old restaurants we never want to see close (I will chain myself to Al Mike’s if it tries to go away).
But what about the restaurants in the middle? The ones that are established but not old, adolescents but not babies.
We figured we’d start a series to occasionally highlight them. Calling it, “It’s Still Good.”
Up first is one my friends will undoubtedly expect from me: Intermezzo Pizzeria, which opened in 2007.
Why it’s good: Serbian dishes and conversation with the Serbian brothers who own it, Djordje and Branko Avramovic. Both are a wealth of stories and good humor.
2 to try:
- Sarma — cabbage rolls with ground beef, rice, bacon and housemade bread.
- Piroska — Balkan-style stuffed pizza with ham, mushrooms, mozzarella and ricotta cheeses, sour cream, tomato sauce.
The backstory: Djordje and Branko moved to Charlotte after their family left Serbia before the Kosovo War. They landed in Detroit first, and on Halloween night: Djordje was 18 then and remembers seeing customs agents dressed in Halloween costumes and wondering exactly what the hell kind of place he’d landed in.
- They spent about a decade working in Charlotte’s restaurant industry before pouring their life’s savings into opening Intermezzo.
- They had about $200 left in their pockets between them then, and they’ve quietly built one of the most loyal customer bases in the city.
Why it matters: When I lived down the street from there, I walked there once a week, at least. Now we go less often. But still, when I stopped by again recently, everything felt… right. The little toy figurines up on the shelves. Djordje coming out from behind the counter to smile and say a huge, “Heeyyyyyyy!!”
- They’re struggling to find staff like everybody else in the restaurant industry these days, especially in the kitchen. It’s caused them to cut back on their menu and to ask for patience from diners, like most everywhere.
- For me, the staff shortage has meant the heartbreak of temporarily losing the karadjordjeva, the pan-seared schnitzel rolled with ham, kajmak and skillet potatoes.
- But … they still have that messy piroska. And all those stories and conversation.
And one last tip: Even the Southern purists of “Nanner pudding” will love how these Serbians make some banana pudding. Must try.
Details: 1427 E. 10th St., 704-347-2626. Open from 4pm-10pm Monday-Thursday; 4pm -11pm on Friday; noon-11pm on Saturday; and noon-10pm on Sunday.