KoPita Authentic Mediterranean is already planning expansion, and has agreed to take over the main restaurant space at the Embassy Suites in downtown Knoxville once Knox Mason leaves next month.
Owner and chef Avi Zenati told Knox News that his restaurant was toying with the idea of building a new kitchen and increasing capacity at the current location 524 S. Gay St. But the costs were too high.
With Knox Mason recently announcing its plans to leave on July 2, Zenatti contacted Alpesh Patel of Kana Hotel Group, which operates Embassy suites at 507 S. Gay St.
Basically, KoPita is moving across the street.
“We’ve had a lot of interest from a lot of different people,” Patel told Knox News. “I’ve known Avy for two years now and really admired his passion for food. After interviewing so many different people, I was very excited about what he wanted to do in our space there.”
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“KoPita 2.0” added new menu items
KoPita has had an interesting journey, starting as a vegetarian restaurant before opening the carnivore next door and eventually combining the two concepts.
The Mediterranean restaurant will keep its lunch items, but will expand its dinner menu with more upscale offerings and a focus on Israeli cuisine, a blend of many cultures.
Customers can expect white tablecloths at night and a variety of dishes inspired by Morocco, Tunisia, Spain and beyond.
“It’s a mix,” Zinati said. “The culinary scene in Israel is very developed…so I will try to bring in more and more food.”
Between 50% and 60% of dishes will be vegetarian, and everything will be cooked as soon as you order. Despite the high concept, which Patel referred to as “KoPita 2.0,” Zenatti wants to keep prices low.
The hotel has more space and a full bar
One of the biggest changes will be the addition of a bar, which Zenatti admits he doesn’t know much about. KoPita currently only sells beer, but he hopes to find a skilled bar manager to create something special at the hotel.
Overall, Zenatti plans to increase the number of employees from 10 to approximately 25. The capacity will increase from 45 in the current location to 100 in the hotel restaurant, plus 25 in the terrace.
Zenatti plans to open the restaurant on July 15, which is a month or two before room service is offered, followed by “finger foods” at the rooftop bar.
He also plans to keep the restaurant open until midnight Thursday through Saturday with a special late-night menu, something he believes is missing from the downtown Knoxville dining scene.
The restaurant plans to remain open seven days a week.
Embassy Suites Looking For ‘Longevity’
While Zenati said he is aware of Knox Mason’s difficulties with the hotel space, “I believe in myself, I believe in my city.”
“I will continue to bring something new to Knoxville,” he said.
Patel said that while Zenati will remain the owner of KoPita, the hotel and restaurant will share the revenue.
Although Knox Mason has struggled to maintain the quality and customer base at the Embassy Suites, Patel is confident in Zenatt’s culinary skills and financial prowess.
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“We wanted the next restaurant to have a long life,” Patel said. “The first thing is the passion that Avi brings. That kind of summaries for me. I feel so happy every time I talk to him.”
What’s next for Knox Mason, KoPita?
Zenatti and his family own several buildings downtown, including the one that currently houses KoPita. He told Knox News that the venue won’t feature a restaurant anymore, but was negotiating a “very exciting concept” to fill the void.
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He plans to share more details with Knox News in the coming weeks.
For Knox Mason, Chef Matt Gallaher recently joined the “The Scruffy Stuff” podcast to talk about the restaurant’s journey and legacy.
Gallaher plans to take some time for himself while continuing to operate Emilia in Market Square, as well as continuing his involvement with Marble City Market vendors Paysan Sandwich Shop and Fantail Fish & Frites.
Embassy Suites, which opened in November 2019, is also home to CJ’s Tacos, Ham’N Goodys, and K Brew.