Steve Cook’s children are not impressed by Saluda’s, the upscale restaurant he’s owned in Five Points for the past 13 years, earning a reputation as one of Columbia’s finest.
They’d rather have pizza.
The nightly “what’s for dinner” conversation can be just as contentious in the Cook household as any other, with multiple tastes to please and schedules to satisfy.
That problem was partly Cook’s inspiration for his new restaurant venture, an Italian-flavored takeout joint that will, in most ways, be a big departure from his Saluda’s operation.
“We try to cook as much as we can,” Cook said of his own family, “but the modern family doesn’t want to do that as much. This restaurant really is an answer to that question. I think there’s a lot of people like us in the neighborhood. So we want to provide familiar food — what’s more familiar than pizza? — but do it in a way that hits our fine-dining sensibilities.”
Il Bucato — which translates to “laundry” in Italian, a nod to the property’s former life as a dry-cleaner — is meant to be a place where families can pick up dinner, bring it home and make everyone happy, no matter their varied preferences, Cook said.
While Il Bucato plans to veer from the fuss and trappings that come with fine dining — the attentive servers, the dining room atmosphere, the fancy bathroom soap — it won’t compromise on the quality of food, Cook said. The food is all he’s worried about here.
“Let’s strip this down and get to the bare bones of what we need to do, which is get good food into people’s hands,” Cook said. “If you look at a menu and it’s too big, none of it is going to be very good. It’s impossible. We’re going to keep it tight and really high quality.”
Expect traditional New York-style pizzas with freshly sourced sauces and toppings (nothing out of a can!), a variety of hot sandwiches, “Saluda’s-level” salads and a rotating slate of special pasta dishes — perhaps chicken alfredo one day, spaghetti with meatballs another, Cook said.
“I don’t think it takes a whole lot more effort to do everything completely from scratch, completely the right way, and still be able to present a product that kids want to eat,” he said.
Everything will be carryout; no in-house seating, no delivery. That’s a model that Cook planned even before the coronavirus pandemic changed the entire dining industry. The past few months, though, as more and more people have adapted to restaurant carryout in light of coronavirus safety concerns, have given Cook confidence that this is a model that will succeed for a long time, even in a post-pandemic world.
Cook plans to open Il Bucato within the next few weeks, most likely by mid-October.
The restaurant is located at 1615 North Beltline Blvd., near the intersection of Beltline and Trenholm Road.
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