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Cuzzo’s Cuisine opened a second location in University City on Super Bowl weekend in 2020. But due to a bad business deal, the restaurant closed just 20 days later on Feb. 20 — a few weeks before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic that further sent Charlotte restaurants spiraling.
Now, the recipes from the gourmet food truck and Enderly Park restaurant are returning to University City — in the same building — for Cuzzo’s Cuisine II. The restaurant is planning to open Super Bowl weekend this time around, too.
Cuzzo’s specializes in Southern cuisine and comfort foods. Founded by Chef Andarrio Johnson and Anglee Brown, first cousins who were born and raised in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, the business — and its name — represents the cousins’ close bond.
Together, they create the perfect power team. Back in 2014, Johnson came up with the “cuisine” part of the name, and Brown thought of “cuzzo.” Johnson serves as head chef, and Brown handles the customer service.
With its location off of North Tryon Street and across from the UNC-Charlotte campus, Johnson said he is excited to bring Cuzzo’s to a developed and well-trafficked area.
“I’m just looking forward to the type of business we can gain over there,” he said.
Johnson’s goal is for Cuzzo’s to cater to everyone.
“Food brings people together, and I like that — to see different cultures and different people try my food, not just one target market,” he said.
Cuzzo’s menu is filled with rich Southern flavors and comfort foods, from wings to waffles.
For the wings, customers can choose from jerk, hot, barbecue and mambo sauces, and regular, cajun and lemon pepper dry rubs. Platters offer a variety of combinations with chicken tenders, wings, fries, oysters, fish and more. You can also find classic Southern dishes.
“I’m a Southern, South Carolina country boy, so I love the shrimp and grits,” Johnson said.
Cuzzo’s also proves that waffles aren’t just a breakfast food. The sweet flavors of Aunt Bungie’s Red Velvet Waffle or Chef Andarrio’s Peach Cobbler Waffle can come with a savory twist — a topping of wings.
And, of course, there is the restaurant’s iconic lobster mac and cheese, available on combo platters, as a side or even in a family size. Based on customer reviews from the Cuzzo’s site, it’s worth trying: “This dish takes you to a place of happiness. Each bite so succulent and perfectly flavored leaves you crying tears of joy. Never in my life have I had food make me so happy as this seafood dish!!!” one reviewer wrote.
For behind-the-scenes cooking videos, check out the Cuzzo’s Cuisine TikTok account.
Johnson first moved to Charlotte in 2011, after receiving his culinary degree in Charleston.
He started out working in catering but soon realized he couldn’t do it all alone. Brown started to help out behind the scenes with business paperwork and customer service. Eventually, the two opened Cuzzo’s as a food truck in June 2014, operating at events across the Carolinas.
By November 2016, the business opened its first brick-and-mortar location in Enderly Park.
Long-term, Johnson hopes to franchise Cuzzo’s not only across Charlotte, but across the Southeast, such as Atlanta and Columbia.
“I would love to especially go back to South Carolina, where I’m from and where I started,” Johnson said.
Cuzzo’s will continue to serve children under 12 for free between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Tuesday through Friday, Johnson said. Cuzzo’s started this offering when COVID-19 started and children were out of school, but now it’s a Cuzzo’s staple.
“That’s my way of giving back to my community,” Johnson said.
Cuzzo’s restaurant is open Tuesday-Saturday from 11 a.m -8 p.m. and Sunday from noon- 5 p.m. Cuzzo’s food truck has been parked for two months due to short staffing, Johnson said. Cuzzo’s Cuisine II is currently hiring for all positions.
Location: 9601 N. Tryon St., Suite F, Charlotte, NC 28262 (opening soon)
Neighborhood: University City
Neighborhood: Enderly Park
Cuisine: American, comfort food