Sherrye Coggiola calls her jolt into restaurant ownership a “midnight takeover.” Three years ago, La Paz, a Mexican restaurant in the Biltmore Village building owned by Coggiola's family, defaulted on its rent, and Coggiola doubted she could find another tenant for the large space after the 2008 financial crisis.
With help from her husband, Tony Coggiola, she threw a sheet over the La Paz sign and embarked on a major rebranding while keeping the doors open. She partnered with Zak Yancey of Neo Burrito for help with a name and a logo, and the restaurant quickly became Neo Cantina.
Now that the Coggiolas' restaurant has built a strong following, it's time for another name change, Sherrye says. In the coming weeks, the restaurant will become The Cantina Biltmore: Fresh-Mex and Tequila Bar.
There's no ill will in her split from the Neo brand, Sherrye explains. “With Neo Burrito's success in opening that Biltmore Park location, it just got really confusing for the public, and we really didn't end up growing together,” she says. “We have completely different types of restaurants.” She hopes visitors will have an easier time distinguishing between the Biltmore Park and Biltmore Village restaurants after the name change.
Changes to the menu will be small but significant. “We're really just trying to go more 21st century,” Sherrye says. “We've kept all of our portions the same, but we're offering side dishes to choose from.” Sauteed kale, black bean and corn salad, cornbread and braised brussels sprouts will become sides, and the recipes for black beans, refried beans and rice will get an update.
Patrons will have the option to donate their side to the needy (in monetary form, anyway). “Although we're going to offer two side items as we always have with every dish, we're going to let people opt out of a side item, and for every side item they opt out of, we're going to donate $2 to a local food charity,” Sherrye says. She's inspired by Rosetta's Kitchen and its emphasis on feeding the under-resourced (the restaurant offers an Everybody Eats plate, which is priced on a sliding scale).
The Coggiolas will donate the proceeds from the sides to a local food charity each quarter. They're hoping to connect with nonprofits soon to determine where the funds will go.
Look for changes at Neo Cantina in the coming weeks; they'll take place gradually. Gift certificates for Neo Cantina will still be honored after the transition is complete. The website for The Cantina Biltmore is cantinabiltmore.com. The restaurant is located at 10 Biltmore Plaza. For more information, call 505-7682.