“Our first passion is in food, and our second is in cycling,” said Jeff Leslie, executive vice president and CEO. “We wanted to fill a concept in the Italian restaurant market that doesn’t exist in the area.”
That concept is fast-casual Italian dining, an option that allows diners to get their food and eat in 30 minutes, and still have their meals made fresh. Instead of table service, a marble chef counter will have guests order meals of their own creation with one chef at a time.
“We call it a ‘one-on-one dance,’” Leslie said. “The cook will stay with you all the way down the line; it’s not an assembly. This way, you can see what’s being made for you and watch the ingredients come together.”
Diners who don’t want to make their own combinations can chose between already-designed combos, including three sandwiches made with house-made Tavolleta bread (baked in a stone oven), three pastas and three salad combos.
More adventurous eaters can create their own menu options by choosing from meats such as Calabrian sausage, steak, shrimp or lemon chicken to make unique sandwich, pasta and salad dishes. Prices run $6 to $10, and there’s indoor and outdoor seating.
For dessert, the restaurant offers gelato done the way Leslie “has only seen it in Sicily,” with 12 rotating flavors of gelato (pistachio and chocolate are two) served inside a warm brioche bun.
On the drink menu, options range from local beer from Greenbush Brewing Company in Sawyer, Mich., to Italian frozen peach Bellinis and apple-pear white Sangria.
The decor is bicycle-inspired all the way, complete with a vintage Bianchi road bike displayed on the wall.
BarBici (bici is bike in Italian) also supports a commitment to healthy lifestyle with an active presence in the cycling community.The restaurant was a sponsor for 2014’s Bike the Bend and will be involved with Michiana Ride for Hospice on September 14.
Bike trail maps will be available for diners, and BarBici will also do what it can to help with the development of local bike paths and lanes, a “natural fit for an Italian restaurant with a long history of cycling in Italy,” Leslie said. “We want to be a place where people who biked as kids can start to think of riding again.”
Leslie hopes patrons will consider coming to BarBici on two wheels instead of four. “There will definitely be a bike rack outside,” he said.
If BarBici proves successful, it may continue to multiply in the style of its Mexican sister restaurants.
BarBici is located at 1233 North Eddy St., Eddy Street Commons at Notre Dame, South Bend. Hours will be 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. Opening day is Aug. 18.