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Restaurateur closing Mozzarella Fellas, opening vegan restaurant in downtown Winston-Salem
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Restaurateur closing Mozzarella Fellas, opening vegan restaurant in downtown Winston-Salem

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Downtown Winston-Salem will get its first vegan restaurant this month as Mozzarella Fellas owner Brian Ricciardi moves from 336 Summit Square Blvd. to 134 N. Spruce St. and reopens under a new name, Dom’s.

A growing number of people are choosing to switch to a vegan diet, but you don’t have to give up some of your favorite foods.

The new location used to house Spruce Street Garden, a bar and restaurant that was only four months old when the pandemic began. Spruce Street Garden closed Oct. 30.

Ricciardi expects to open Dom’s on Jan. 14. Mozzarella Fellas’ last day will be Jan. 10.

For the past five years, Mozzarella Fellas has been a pizza and Italian restaurant that also sold a variety of sandwiches and American food.

Ricciardi opened Mozzarella Fellas with a partner in 2016 and eventually became sole owner. Along the way, he followed his personal passion for a vegan diet by offering an increasing number of vegan dishes and substitutions for pizza and other items. The restaurant also offered many gluten-free dishes.

By 2019, about a third of the menu was vegan, and word had spread among the vegetarian community that Mozzarella Fellas was a place worth seeking out. And as the restaurant's reputation grew, Ricciardi knew that downtown would be a better location for his clientele.

Then in June 2020, with his business thrown for a loop by the pandemic, Ricciardi switched to a 100% vegan menu. He figured he had little to lose.

“In light of everything going down with coronavirus and not knowing if I was going to have a business, I figured I’d go out on my own terms if I do not make it,” Ricciardi said in June. “It’s what I’m passionate about, so I’m taking a leap of faith.”

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In his announcement Jan. 7 about Dom’s on Facebook, Ricciardi said, “It’s been a wild ride as Mozzarella Fellas, going from a small Italian restaurant, to the Triad’s first all-vegan brick-and-mortar restaurant. We’re excited for the next chapter in our business. To those of you who have supported us throughout the last five years, we can’t thank you enough.”

Ricciardi said Jan. 7 that Dom’s initially will offer only takeout  four days a week — Thursday through Sunday — but will eventually open the dining room.

Ricciardi is still working on the menu for Dom’s, but he expects it will offer some of the vegan items from Mozzarella Fellas as well as some new items. In other words, it will have a mix of Italian dishes, sandwiches and other dishes.

“It will be all plant-based, but I love all different types of food,” Ricciardi said. “Like when we started doing tacos (at Mozzarella Fellas), people said, ‘Why are you doing tacos?’ but I just love tacos.”

One big change will be the lack of pizza. “I can’t take that big pizza oven with me, at least not initially,” he said. “But we will have focaccia or some kind of flatbread.”

He said that the new restaurant name comes from his family nickname for him. “My great-grandfather was Dominick, and my grandmother has called me Dominick my whole life,” Ricciardi said. “When I was little, 9 years old, I made up my first menu and it’s was called Dominick’s. And it was vegetarian.”

He also was thinking of the well-known Dominick’s Italian restaurant in the Bronx, N.Y., near where he grew up.

Ricciardi said he also has signed a lease in downtown Greensboro. In March, he hopes to open Radici (Italian for “roots”) at 214 S. Elm St., the former site of Pier Oyster Bar & Grill, two doors down from Crafted The Art of the Taco. It also will be a vegan restaurant and will have a small menu, probably with some overlap of dishes served at Dom’s.

“I know it’s a lot happening all at once, and it sounds crazy,” Ricciardi said. “But I’ve been wanting to move downtown for a long time, and these two situations just fell in my lap.”

PHOTOS: Photos: Mozzarella Fellas in 2019

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@mhastingsWSJ

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