By Kristy Locklin | Trib Live
Being in a relationship is tough, especially when you’re working together 60 hours a week in an 8-by-10-foot kitchen on wheels.
After running The Coop Chicken & Waffles food truck for three years, Nicki Cardilli and Justin Fitzgerald are flying the mobile cage and opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant in the North Side. It’s expected to hatch in mid-January.
Located at 401 East Ohio St., the eatery will feature their chicken-and-waffle meals and desserts. Their chicken is prepared fresh and contains no added hormones, antibiotics or steroids. New offerings include bone-in birds, sandwiches, salads and a family-size platter comprised of a bucket of chicken and two large sides.
Fitzgerald grew up in Houston, Texas, where his family’s Sunday dinners always included fried chicken and all the fixins. Those time-honored recipes, combined with his experience working at Chik-Fil-A, gave him the confidence to get into the poultry business with his girlfriend, a North Hills native.
The rolling Coop, which resembles a red barn, is one of the most popular food trucks in Pittsburgh. It runs six days a week for nine months out of the year. Once the North Side spot opens, it will only make limited appearances at private events.
The new site, a former Rita’s Italian Ice, has been remodeled. Customers can take their orders to go or dine in a 720-square-foot space that Fitzgerald describes as a “futuristic barn.” The decor includes white-washed Amish lumber, concrete floors and subway tiling. There’s a patio out back that the couple will open in the spring.
They’re excited to be a part of the recent North Side business boom along East Ohio Street. New businesses opening in recent years include Siempre Algo restaurant and bar and the Government Center, a vinyl record store. North Side-based October Development is finishing a $18 million, 96-room Comfort Inn on East Ohio near East Street and Interstate 279 with an opening scheduled for January. The Fig & Ash Wood Fire Kitchen is also in the works.
“Location means everything,” Cardilli says. “You get a sense of support and belonging in the city.”