Kitchen Comfort

Civetta offers creative tastes of Italy

By Amy Rogers | Photos by Ray Sepesy

Now that cool temps have settled in, everyone’s craving comfort food. That means pasta and Parmesan, red wine and risotto. And in the Ballantyne area it means a meal at Civetta Italian Kitchen + Bar.

Still relatively new, Civetta (pronounced CHEE’-vetta) opened in early 2019. Yet, it’s already becoming a gathering spot for locals. Creating a neighborhood vibe in a busy retail corridor can be a challenge, but here the comfortable atmosphere and rustic décor encourage diners to relax.

The menu offers a well-chosen selection of dishes. Olives and almonds flavored with roasted garlic and rosemary make for a simple but satisfying appetizer. It’s a fragrant complement to classically prepared steamed mussels that can also stand on their own as a first course.

Civetta puts an Italian spin on that American restaurant mainstay, the chopped salad. This colorful version features a mix of lettuces, salami, provolone, artichokes and fresh herbs. There’s also a create-your-own-salad option at lunch that’s fun to build. Guests select their favorites from among dozens of ingredients on a small order form at the table.

Pork Milanese has a pan-roasted, crispy coating. Smoked chicken carbonara with a rich cheese sauce is flecked with peas and salt-cured pancetta. Both are perfect for getting warmed up in cold weather. (Gluten-free pasta is available, too.)

An Italian bartender developed the original martini cocktail, and Civetta offers modernized variations. One version features grappa, the potent Italian spirit. Wines from Italy make up a solid list.

Civetta is one of Urban Food Group’s 10 restaurants and is a sister restaurant to Vivace in Midtown. Kevin Jennings is a partner in the company owned by his wife, Stacey. He explains that they had been keen to open in Ballantyne, but it wasn’t until a space became available in the former Smoke restaurant location that the timing was right.

Chef Stephen Ollard, who trained at Johnson & Wales University, now heads up the kitchen, and pastry chef Krista Margies is on board to create classic tiramisu and all things sweet.

Jennings envisions “a confidently changing representation of the food people find in Italy.” That’s not easy. He adds, “People are familiar with restaurants in New York and Boston. They have expectations for the food they remember.”

Being locally owned allows the restaurant to be creative, not corporate. That’s a big advantage, and why, one tasty plate at a time, Civetta is making a culinary impression here in Charlotte.

Civetta Italian Kitchen + Bar

7828-E Rea Road

Charlotte 28277


A neighborhood vibe and rustic décor have helped Civetta become a gathering spot for locals.