From pork to pasta: Big Belly Que owners to open new Italian-inspired restaurant

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The owners of Chapel Hill’s Big Belly Que are raising the steaks with Bombolo, a new restaurant set to open in the summer. A change of pace from barbecue, Bombolo will serve pasta, charcuterie and sandwiches.

Bombolo is co-owned by siblings Garret Fleming and Eleanor Lacy. Fleming serves as the executive chef, while Lacy works as the daytime manager and head baker.

“I’ve been cheffing for about 15 years now,” Fleming said. “I’m very confident in our skillset to represent what we want to do.”

The siblings closed Big Belly Que in late January in order to focus on Bombolo. While Big Belly Que was formerly located in the Blue Dogwood Public Market, Bombolo will open at 104 North Graham Street. 

“We decided to pull two steps ahead from our overall game plan and pick out what we were going to do, which is going to be like a flagship for us,” Fleming said.

The new location affected their decision to switch from barbecue to pasta because of the location’s interior. The building is made of wood, which would make their wood-burning smoker impractical and unsafe, Fleming said. 

But the decision wasn’t a difficult one to make. The siblings had been re-examining serving barbecue since early 2020. And when the COVID-19 pandemic began, Big Belly Que shifted to take-out menus featuring pasta dishes in addition to barbecue. 

“Italian food, European food in general, is more of the way we actually like to eat,” Lacy said. “That’s always been more appealing to us.”

The name Bombolo is a nickname for Franco Lechner, an Italian actor-comedian who has become associated with the archetype of a man with a fat belly — a nod to their past as Big Belly Que, Lacy said. 

But Fleming said that while the restaurant has an Italian name, Bombolo isn’t purely an Italian restaurant.

“I want the freedom to pick from our favorite foods, foods that I want to eat and foods that will complement each other,”  he said.

Bombolo’s menu will be divided into lunch and dinner sections. The former will consist of snacks, charcuterie items and sandwiches, while the latter service will feature fresh pasta dishes. 

Although the menu isn’t finalized, Fleming and Lacy have lined up a large selection of potential dishes. They include porchetta with burnt radicchio jam, arugula and ricotta salata; barbacoa torta with avocado, radish, mayonnaise and chili pickle and Piri Piri chicken with pineapple tzatziki and frites — one of Fleming’s favorites.

Fleming said the finalized menu will have five snacks, five sandwiches and four kinds of pasta.

Lacy said that while there will be dessert options from Big Belly Que’s menu, new treats will be added to the new restaurant. 

“I’ll be able to do more Italian and French-style tarts, which were always a little out of place on Big Belly’s (menu),” she said. “They never sold as well as a big coconut cake or something like that, but that’s the kind of dessert I prefer.”

UNC senior Elijah Imlay said he is interested in Bombolo because he enjoyed the food at Big Belly Que.

“I feel like Chapel Hill is oversaturated with pizza places and not enough places that offer Italian cuisine,” he said. “It’s definitely something that I would check out when they open.”

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