Restaurant owner to open second eatery

It’s often stated that experience is the best tool in life.

As the owner of Spicy Pickle Restaurant & Bar, a local restaurant that opened earlier this year at the Shoppes at Stoney Creek plaza on Zebulon Road, businessman Sharif Elsayed said the things he has learned with this first establishment will help him as he opens another restaurant in town.

Elsayed is in the process of opening a new restaurant called The Chopped Panini that will replace the former vapor store that closed last year. Chopped Panini will be located at 3665 Sunset Ave. in the Westridge Village Shopping Center.

Elsayed said the plan is to tentatively open the restaurant on Friday.

Elsayed said the restaurant will offer selections such as paninis, crepes, gourmet sandwiches, vegan and vegetarian entrees, gluten-free food and more items such as Mediterranean food, salads and desserts. Chopped Panini also plans to cook molecular gastronomy recipes, which blend physics and chemistry to transform the tastes and textures of food.

“I feel like we’re going to be offering something different than what Rocky Mount has seen before,” Elsayed said. “A lot of people are looking for more healthy options. We’re still going to have other fatty type food, but having more healthy selections is something that has taken off at bigger metro areas like Raleigh, so I thought it was important to have this type of place for people to come and eat in Rocky Mount.”

In addition to food, Elsayed said, Chopped Panini will sell a variety of alcohol, including local craft beer and wines.

“I’m going to have wines that you can’t often find in Rocky Mount,” he said. “I would say 90 percent of what I sell people can’t buy over-the-counter anywhere else and there are more that are usually special orders.”

Elsayed said he estimates he’s spent about $70,000 in renovations and additions to the restaurant that include a bar area and seating area that can seat about 50 people. He said being located in the Westridge Village Shopping Center is an ideal spot.

“I think this area is the No. 1  location in Rocky Mount,” Elsayed said. “There is a lot of good walk-through traffic that you see everyday around here.”

Elsayed said Chopped Panini will start off with 20 employees, and his plan is to also bring on board students that were part of Nash Community College’s culinary arts program that are seeking to gain some work experience in the kitchen. Elsayed also said he has talked with the college’s art director to have students put up and showcase their artwork in the restaurant that will be available for sale.

Elsayed also is planning to have live entertainment such as a pianist, so customers will be able to pick a song for the pianist to play.

“I want people to feel like they’re at home where they’re able to come to a relaxed atmosphere and enjoy themselves,” Elsayed said. 

Elsayed is confident the start of his venture at Chopped Panini will go smoother because of the things he learned as a novice owner in the restaurant industry at Spicy Pickle. While things are going good at Spicy Pickle, Elsayed acknowledged the restaurant had some issues that needed to addressed.

Elsayed closed down Spicy Pickle for three weeks and re-opened the restaurant early last month. 

“I was new to the restaurant scene and we were making too many mistakes,” Elsayed said. “It got to the point where I needed to sit back, analyze the situation and reassessed to make it better.

Since reopening back the restaurant, Elsayed said some things to the menue and took some things off such as having an oyster and shrimp bar, repainted the interior and increased the seating to hold 68 people instead of 50. Elsayed is also confident in the staff working him.

“I feel good about Spicy Pickle and believe the Chopped Panini will be successful as well,” Elsayed. “People think it’s crazy to have two different restaurants in Rocky Mount, but I have two different themes and I know people love to eat and will keep coming as long as they get quality customer service and good food.”

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