Room To Grow 

A Korean noodle shop in Midtown; Vito’s Cucina opening soon.

Kwik-Chek will soon be expanding into the space next door. What was formerly Umai will now be a Korean noodle shop, open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday.

"I've been here 20 years, and we have a problem with the parking lot," owner Sue Reyna says. "It's better for us to take the space. Umai was nighttime only, but if somebody else is going to be next door, then we were going to have a problem with the parking lot."

Customers will be able to assemble their own noodle bowls, choosing among broths, noodles, meats, and vegetables. "Many people think there's only one hot noodle soup," Reyna says. "There are a lot of different types — cold noodles, thick or thin, different flavors." The shop will offer hot noodles and cold noodles, perfect for both winter and summer. Reyna says they will serve beer and wine.

Kwik-Chek's hours will stay the same, and the noodle shop will only be open in the evening. They haven't decided on the name for the new shop, and it will be a couple of months before they open. Reyna says they still have a lot of work to do to open up the building next door into one large restaurant space. In the meantime, check on the progress next time you stop by for a Ninja or bibimbap.

Kwik-Chek, 2013 Madison (274-9293)

Vito's Cucina might not look like it has enough space to house a cucina, but for delivery, drive-thru, and take-out, owner Chris Conner says they've got all the space they need.

"Basically it's a high-end Italian drive-thru," he says. "Those communities within a two- or three-mile radius need to have a good, reliable, relatively healthy option to fast food."

Vito's, which opens this week, will also do delivery within a certain distance of the Walnut Grove location. And since it's off the Shelby Farms Greenline, Conner hopes to serve cyclists and pedestrians and offer a small amount of outdoor seating for bike-up and walk-up traffic.

Conner was the man behind Republic Coffee, located just a block away from Vito's. He sold the coffee shop in 2009, and after some time doing community service work in Haiti, he has decided to return to life as a full-time restaurateur — really full-time. Vito's will be open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to midnight. ("It's not my first dance," Conner says, when asked about the ambitious time commitment.)

Nathan Jones is the chef, and the menu is fairly streamlined, with pastas, pizzas (whole and by-the-slice), salads, and sandwiches. There are only two hot subs on the menu: slow-roasted roast beef sandwich with provolone and horseradish aioli and the meatball sub, which can be ordered vegetarian with falafel meatballs and vegan cheese. A number of specialty pizzas are available for delivery or take-out, but the by-the-slice options are limited to cheese, pepperoni, vegetable, and slice-of-the-day.

Conner says he would like to see his toasted ravioli take the place of French fries as a fast-food snack, with marinara dipping sauce instead of ketchup. Conner also wants to serve the breakfast crowd, with a range of espresso drinks, including an ancho-chili mocha and coffee and zapoli (Italian beignets). Fresh cannolis and tiramisu round out the pastry offerings.

Although the service is fast, Conner emphasizes the quality of the food.

"I'm trying to make it so everything can be made in 90 seconds. The menu is built from the ground up to be expeditious and whole," he says. "We don't have a microwave, and we don't have anything with high-fructose corn syrup."

Entrées ring up under $10. Conner hopes to have online ordering within the month.

Vito's Cucina, 2886 Walnut Grove (590-1907)

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