If you made a Venn diagram of Koco Tamburi’s three businesses, at the center you’d find passion for authentic cuisine.
Embur Fire Fusion opened in early August behind Mad Hatter off of West Friendly Avenue. Dolce & Amaro is located in the same shopping center as Osteria, Tamburi’s first Greensboro establishment. They complete the entrepreneur’s trifecta of authentic eateries.
Osteria, which opened in 2013, has seen a steady following since then, drawing visitors with its handmade pastas and entrées inspired by the flavors of the Bologna region of Italy. Embur, on the other hand, describes itself as Peruvian and Italian fusion; Dolce & Amaro focuses strictly on Italian pastries and desserts; each has carved a place in Greensboro’s maturing food scene.
Jorge Castillo, head chef and co-owner of Embur, used to man the kitchen at Osteria until Embur opened its doors two months ago. Donna Smith, the front-of-house manager at Embur, says that Castillo, who was raised in Peru, had longed to cook his home country’s food for Greensboro diners.
Nestled between established Greensboro neighborhoods Sunset Hills and Westerwood, Embur Fire Fusion boasts both wood-fired pizzas and Peruvian chicken on its menu. But the dishes that truly shine are the traditional Peruvian ones that Castillo has crafted with care.
The pollo a la brasa, which translates to “blackened chicken,” can be ordered by the quarter, half or whole. The chickens are slow-cooked over a wood-charcoal rotisserie and served with a choice of fries and a salad or traditional Peruvian rice. (Get the rice.) Being one of two restaurants in Greensboro that offer Peruvian fare — the other being Simauchi off of High Point Road on the other side of town — Embur had a big responsibility to authentically represent the cuisine but according to those who have flocked to the restaurant since its opening, Castillo hasn’t had any trouble.
“He’s so passionate about it,” Smith says about Castillo’s dedication to his food. “He has a hand in everything that comes out of the kitchen.”
And sometimes, those include dishes that aren’t even on the menu.
“When people find out that we have Peruvian food, they’ll ask Jorge if he can make something and he’ll usually do it,” Smith says.
The lomo saltado is one of those requests. A popular dish in Peru, Castillo’s version is made with filet mignon, sauteed peppers and tomatoes. Peruvian ceviche, made with fresh halibut, calamari, shrimp, onions and Peruvian corn is another frequent ask that doesn’t appear on the regular bill of fare.
“We have people call 24 hours in advance so they can come and eat it the next day,” Smith says. “We hope to incorporate some of these dishes into the menu in the future.”
The main takeaway, Smith says, is the level of care and quality of ingredients that run the show.
“We barely have a freezer,” Smith says. “Everything is fresh. The sauces, the dressings, everything.”
A few minutes down the road, Mikel Leka, the co-owner of the new Dolce & Amaro patisserie echoes some of the same sentiments. While the sweets shop has been open for less time than Embur, Leka says that Dolce & Amaros has already seen a positive response from the community. Sharing space in the Westover shopping center with World of Beer and Osteria, Dolce and Amaro is more of a café than a restaurant and offers limited seating. Its pastry menu on the other hand, is extensive.
“We offer both traditional and modern Italian pastries,” Leka says. “We only use the best ingredients and don’t use a lot of sugar.”
The glass cabinet, which takes up most of the shop’s interior, gleams brightly as it houses colorful, delectable treats like cream puffs covered in powder, delicate cookies dipped in chocolate, rows of eclairs and colorful little cups of panna cotta. And that’s just one half. The right side entices customers with slices of layered cakes, little bowls of tiramisu and macarons in half a dozen pastel hues. It’s a Willy Wonka wonderland.
Leka, who co-owns the shop with Tamburi, says that the baker at Dolce & Amaro recently moved to Greensboro from Italy to help open the business. He makes sure that he’s working with the best ingredients, which is why most of them come straight from Europe, many from Italy, says Leka.
The Marilyn Monroe cake, which comes with a light, raspberry-flavored, gelatin-like cream on top and a chocolate, almost coffee-flavored cake on the bottom, is one of the most popular picks, says Leka. It’s sweet but not cloyingly so.
Twenty years ago, Greensboro couldn’t boast one authentic Italian or Peruvian restaurant. Now, you can enjoy a plate of pollo a la brasa and then drive five minutes down the road and get lost in the crispy and sweet layers of millefoglie, both crafted with care by those who speak the language of each cuisine.
Ah, la dolce vita.