What started as a lone food truck three years ago has blossomed into a brick-and-mortar eatery in Carrboro.
Napoli, the local Neapolitan pizza food truck complete with a built in wood fired oven, has moved into a new storefront on Main Street.
According to Gael Chatelain, who co-owns Napoli with his wife, the idea for the food truck was in the works for years before the truck made its debut Carrboro. Born in Switzerland, he was accustomed to wood-fired pizza and started making it a young age.
“We’ve always been huge foodies,” Chatelain said. “We traveled all over the world right after college and spent a lot of time in Southeast Asia. I grew up in French speaking countries, and they tend to have more wood-fired pizza, so I grew up with that kind of Pizza because my family is from Switzerland.”
After he and his wife met in college, they traveled the world before settling in Malawi. They opened a hospitality business, which included building their own wood-fired pizza oven from local materials. When they decided to switch things up, they moved home to Chapel Hill.
Intimidated by the idea of going all-in on a restaurant, the Chatelains moved forward with a food truck. One year later, seeing how successful the truck had been, they invested in a second truck. After that, the next step was a physical location, which they moved into in early 2018.
The idea was initially for the Main Street location to serve as a commissary kitchen. But when zoning issues squashed that idea, they decided to open up a shop to serve gelato and coffee, establishing Napoli Cafe.
“We can offer everything that we can’t do in the truck,” Chatelain said. “We saw this as a compliment to the truck. So, beer, wine, desserts with the gelato, coffee during the day. That was the idea. With the truck and this, it kind of creates a restaurant together. Instead of having a kitchen in the back, we have it in a truck next door.”
In addition to the café location, Napoli will be one of the vendors joining Durham Food Hall, opening early this year. Here, they will serve their full menu, as well as a new brunch selection, which will be rolling out at both locations soon.
One of the best aspects of opening a location was providing seating for customers, Chatelain said. They often set up tables and chairs by the old food truck location until the health department no longer allowed it. Now, with the cafe, customers are free to eat their pizza right out of the oven, the way it should be consumed.
“This pizza that we do is really good right out of the oven. So If you take it home in a box, it doesn’t ruin it, but it definitely diminishes the quality. So when we had the truck, almost everyone was taking things away.”
The cafe includes a quaint storefront and outdoor patio seating. The menu consists of coffee and gelato creations, including the affogato, served over salted dulce de leche gelato.
“The affogato really blends the gelato and the coffee beautifully,” Chatelain said. “If you had to take it a step further, we recommend having the affogato with our salted dulce de leche gelato. And it gives it that caramel-y flavor to it.”
According to Chatelain, one of the best and most unique draws of Napoli’s gelato is that it is made fresh every day. They use local dairy products from Homeland Creamery, which is located west of Chapel Hill in Julian.
While Napoli has been a part of the Carrboro community for years, Chatelain said having a physical location has secured their spot in the town.
“Being in the heart of Carrboro … We just love the small town feel of it,” he said. “It’s been really great opening a cafe. Even though we were part of the community already with the truck, but somehow having an actual location … everyone was so excited about it.”
Photos by Ariel Natt