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A group of central city restaurateurs is teaming up to branch out into Natomas, but in a more casual setting than their full-service Midtown and East Sacramento locations.
“It’s going to be really casual – burgers, sandwiches, soups and salads,” said Billy Ngo, owner of Kru. “It’s going to be simple, good food, and it’s going to be cheap.”
Menu items will feature a lot of pork, with a pork belly grilled cheese, sandwiches built around pork, and burgers such as the Notorious P.I.G., a 10-ounce beef patty with a slab of braised pork belly and pork rinds on a bun.
Suzanne Ricci, wife of Formoli’s Bistro Chef Aimal Formoli and one of the partners along with Formoli and Ngo, said pork was the obvious focus because all of them enjoy it so much.
“Everyone’s had bacon, but best part of the pig is the belly,” Ricci said, explaining that the savory area will be the restaurant’s focus.
“It’s super-basic, super-simple stuff,” she said. “It’s got lots of pork belly, which is really the best part of the pig, and it’s heavier, comfort food with competitive prices.”
Also on the menu will be some Asian-inspired dishes, most notably banh-mi sandwiches with meat selections.
Pork Belly Grub Shack, located at 4261 Truxel Road, will have items ranging from $4 - $9 and will primarily be a lunch place and sell take-out for early dinner. Hours are planned to be from about 11 a.m. - 6 p.m., though they may change.
Ngo said he, Ricci and Formoli thought the deal on the space it was too good to pass up and decided to bring a local independent eatery to an area dominated by larger chain businesses.
“There’s a lot of chain restaurants out there, so we want to bring some Midtown-style cooking to the area,” Ngo said.
Ricci said that while they all have traditionally operated full-service restaurants, the new place, which is looking to do a lot of catering and takeout as well as counter service inside, is more appealing in a down economy.
The approximately 1,600-square-foot space can seat about 30 people and used to be a specialty chocolate shop, so food-service necessities such as floor drains were already installed, Ricci said.
Outdoor seating is planned for the future, once the restaurant gets up and running.
Interior décor will feature pig paintings by locals Liz Miller and Matthew Byrd.
“We want to bring some of a Midtown artistic, creative feel to (the restaurant),” Ricci said.
Opening amid fears of a second recession, Ricci said the economy is always a consideration, but she believes the restaurant will do well.
“With Billy (Ngo) and Aimal (Formoli), I know the food is going to be good,” she said. “If the product is good and the pricing is reasonable, then it’s definitely going to be a place people can bring their families.”
General Manager David West was previously a bartender at Red Lotus, and he said he sees the restaurant growing in popularity and turning into a small chain if it does as well as he expects.
“There’s two amazing chefs behind it,” he said. “It’s gonna be good.”
Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Darnell.