Greensboro-based Cugino Forno is bringing its take on Neapolitan pizza to Wilmington’s Soda Pop District, moving in beside what might be an ideal match for its wood-fired pies – Hi-Wire Brewing.
Featuring a distinctive round corner, the L-shaped building at 1020 Princess St. goes back to the 1940s when it was home to an automobile dealership. The building is in the heart of what has been dubbed the Soda Pop District, which is centered around the former Coca-Cola bottling plant at 10th and Princess streets.
And it’s not a coincidence that the restaurant is sharing space with Hi-Wire.
“We share a location with them in Durham that we recently opened,” said Joseph Ozbey, who along with his cousins Yilmaz Guver and Adam Adksoy started the business in 2017.
“They actually called us and said, ‘There’s a location right next door. We would love for you guys to come down here for a couple of days,’” Ozbey said.
The cousins liked what they saw.
“We’ve been to Wilmington before, but this time we took our time,” said Ozbey, who, like his cousins, grew up in Turkey. “We drove around the city a lot and decided that it could be a good fit for our company.”
The restaurant will feature two volcanic stone-lined ovens that cook the pizzas at 900 degrees.
“Our pizzas cook in 90 seconds,” Ozbey said.
Out of respect for their business neighbor, Cugino Forno (Italian for “cousin oven”) will not serve draft beer. The two businesses will share a common patio area where customers can enjoy both the beer and the pizzas.
In 2019, the building was purchased by 1020 Princess St, an LLC associated with Andy Hewitt. (In October, Hewitt and a partner purchased the Coca-Cola building, which dates to the 1930s.)
Asheville-based Hi-Wire now occupies most of the building, but Cugino Forno will still have a generous 3,500 square feet of space.
Cugino Forno offers nearly a dozen Neapolitan-style pizzas, from the traditional Margherita (tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil and garlic) to the Calabrese spicy Italian salami, Calabrian peppers and mozzarella. The menu also features several salads along with some classic Italian desserts. Wine and bottled beer also are available.
Ozbey said they are shooting for an April opening.