Flatiron Restaurant Re-Opens After a Major “Refreshing” of the Space
Flatiron Restaurant first opened in 2009 when the Flatiron Building was completed. In 2012, the restaurant came under new ownership, led by Michael Orlando, a Davidson graduate and local realtor. “I am from a large Italian family, originally from Luca, Italy,” Orlando said. “My paternal great-grandfather was a professional mandolin player who came to this country as a young man, first to the east coast and then to Los Angeles to play with the symphony there. My family always gathered around food and music for our happiest times, and when the restaurant became available, it was the right time for me to enter the business.”
In addition to Orlando, the restaurant has two other owners – Chad Hollingsworth, who runs a seafood company in Charlotte, and Orlando’s college roommate, Tee Bahnson. Bahnson, formerly a resident of Davidson, now lives in Seattle and is a bio-statistician. Another Davidson graduate, Jeff Tonidandel, who was a year ahead of Orlando, was involved early on to help them establish best practices. Tonidandel owns two Charlotte restaurants, Supperland and Haberdish.
The owners closed Flatiron for three weeks in early January this year to replace the restaurant’s six HVAC units. They cleaned the entire space, including grease traps, lighting fixtures, walls, and windows and added up-lighting along the walls. The newly installed Trane system is the result of 13 years of technological advancements since the restaurant first opened, and fresh air gives a clean sweep of the space every hour. All of this provides a better experience for diners.
Patrons of Flatiron might have noticed the beautiful ceiling, designed by Andrew Wagner, a Charlotte architect. It, too, was cleaned and adds a unique element to the restaurant. Orlando stated, “we replaced all of the furniture and will resurface the bar in the next few months. Our tables were specially made by a company that uses butcher block wood tops with iron legs. They are both substantial and beautiful. We want a warm feel when people sit down at the table. New chairs with wood frames and cushions are also coming. We expect them to arrive any day now.”
They also replaced the flooring with 8-inch tiles that look like wood but are easier to clean and more durable. Chef and Managing Partner, Bill Schutz, usually referred to as simply Chef Bill, is focusing on a mixture of comfort food and creativity. Schutz trained at two renowned restaurants in New York City, Bouley and La Caravelle, and he went on to work in restaurants across the world. He offers new and adventurous dishes, but also includes well-known recipes that people always want to find there. “Chef Bill spends time sourcing ingredients because,” as Orlando said, “quality has to be maintained.
“One of our biggest culinary efforts is at the bar. During the three weeks we were closed, our bartenders trained at Supperland and Haberdish. We even have a new ice program, with ice that is super clear. So, we start with that really good ice and use higher fizz soda and have new glassware, all of which protects the quality of the drinks we pour.”
Mandolino’s, across Main Street from Flatiron, also is owned by the same group. It was named in honor of the great-grandfather mandolin player, who happened to pass along the talent for that instrument to Orlando. “Mandolino’s is doing quite well. The pandemic was good for pizza restaurants, and now our first floor is largely for take-out, though we do have plenty of seating, as well.
We have expanded Mandolino’s menu, to include pastas, sandwiches, and desserts, such as tiramisu and cannoli. Our pizza crust is a recipe that Chef Bill inherited from his grandmother. It is called “grandma’s style.” Bill and our cooks went to Manhattan to learn how to make pizza dough from Chef Bill’s brother-in-law, who owns a restaurant there. We bought the same ovens and use the same flour. This gives us a special concept to replicate, and we hope to expand to Southend and Plaza Midwood, at some point.”
As described by Orlando, Flatiron’s mission is “to integrate with the community and to create a comfortable and creative experience. We want to be reliably like your local bar, but where diners are pleasantly surprised by the quality and variety of the food. We have had a busy January into February. People seem to be eager to be out in the world again.”
Flatiron and Mandolino’s welcome diners seven days a week into lively and well-cared for spaces. One time, you might even hear beautiful music on a mandolin played by the restaurant’s owner, who brings his heritage of food and music to Davidson.