Cargo District to net new eatery with mid- to late May opening of Salita Pizza
Salita Pizza will open later this month from a takeout window in the alleyway behind Queen Street Barbershop, serving wood-fired pizzas, salads and soft serve ice cream. (Photo courtesy of Salita Pizza)
A new pizza shop opening in the Cargo District later this month may be humble in size, with just 500 square feet of space to house a kitchen serviced by a takeout window, but the aspirations behind Salita Pizza are grand.
The name itself speaks to the goals of the enterprise. Translated from Italian to English, Salita refers to the act of rising, and owner Jim Diecchio identified a layer of meaning beyond the name’s obvious nod to the business’s naturally leavened sourdough crusts.
“It’s that, but it’s also that we’ve been in this industry where people have been used and abused. We’re really trying to do something different and create a better industry,” Diecchio said.
A restaurant veteran who currently serves as Seabird’s pastry chef in addition to his work on Salita, Diecchio’s itch to open his own concept stemmed from a desire to create what he calls a more sustainable model that skirts the traditional industry hazards of low wages, inflexible or hectic schedules, and poor treatment of employees.
“That’s not what we have to do to produce good food,” Diecchio said. Diecchio’s wife, Terri, will work behind the scenes at Salita on bookkeeping and other matters of business. She is also an industry veteran.
The concept is centered on simplicity. Open four days per week, Salita’s daily service will be limited to takeout through a walk-up window in the alleyway behind Queen Street Barbershop. Simplified operations allow the star of the show – the food – to be the focus.
“We’re just going to be an unsuspecting window in an alley in the Cargo District that’s hopefully pushing out some of the best food,” Diecchio said.
To start, Salita’s menu will offer just a few choices: a handful of wood-fired pizzas, a couple salads and two soft serve ice cream flavors. Nearly everything will be homemade and sourced as locally as possible. For the main attraction, Diecchio’s sourdough crust is crafted with a mix of five locally milled, organic flours from North and South Carolina. Each of those flours plays a role in a final product that Diecchio described as chewy with a little crunch at the base, with a flavor reminiscent of the sourdough and focaccia offerings at Seabird.
“Everything’s going to have a purpose, whether it’s bringing chew or bringing stability to the crust,” Diecchio said. “Everything’s there for a reason.”
Toppings will be driven by the availability of local, seasonal produce, which Diecchio said could result in pizzas offering a twist on tradition. For example, arugula could be swapped with peppery scarlet mustard greens, a crop grown in abundance by a local farmer in Diecchio’s network.
“He grows it because it helps him fight a parasite on this farm and it helps the overall health of his crops. So it’s something he always has in steady supply,” Diecchio said. “Why not throw that on a pizza instead of arugula?”
All pizzas will be sold in one size, a 10-inch personal portion, that Diecchio hopes will provide portability for on-the-go Cargo District customers.
The starting lineup for salads will include a spin on two classic pizza parlor staples: a Caesar and chopped salad. For soft serve, Diecchio has planned one dairy-based option – he listed traditional flavors like vanilla, lemon or olive oil as contenders – plus a vegan sorbet. The two choices can be ordered separately or swirled together.
After the restaurant has found its groove, Diecchio plans to expand the menu. On weekend mornings, Salita will sell homemade bagels. Diecchio is also interested in offering homemade breads with tinned fish and pickles once the operation is dialed in and running smoothly.
Located at 615 S. 16th St., Suite 130, Salita will be open Thursday through Sunday from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. Once bagels are added to the menu, opening time will likely be around 9 a.m., Diecchio said.