A few years ago, back before the Great Recession, Ken Vedrinski was bullish on downtown. The chef and restaurateur behind Trattoria Lucca was ready to go big. He invested some serious bucks into a space at the old Cigar Factory on East Bay Street where an Atlanta developer was planning major things, mainly fancy loft apartments. Vedrinski was planning an Italian seafood restaurant called Introdacqua. Of course, we all know what happened next. The bottom fell out, the bank pulled out, and Vedrinski was left holding an empty bag.
Fast forward to 2013 and Vedrinski wouldn’t dare waste his time downtown. “This is what I think, the last thing downtown needs is any more restaurants…. no fucking way,” says the straightforward chef, who has signed a deal on the space that formerly housed Hucks on Isle of Palms. He’s sticking with his Italian seafood concept, and he’ll call the restaurant Coda del Pesce — literally the tail of the fish, but he points out it can also be the “tale” of the fish. A clever play on words.
“It makes total sense,” says Vedrinski, pointing out that there aren’t many restaurants on the water, even though the local geography is all about water. “I think I should kill it on the beach over there. There’s no Italian over there; there’s not much seafood. Besides the Boathouse, where would you actually go (to dine on the water)?”
Vedrinski lucked into the opportunity, finding out about Hucks’ closing from one of his vendors. “JJ [Kern] had just shut down overnight … the guy had a meeting with him at 10 a.m. and then at 11 a.m. he was here [at Lucca] and told me, so I called Jim Moring at Restaurant Brokers. He took me over there and I said, I want it.”
He’ll be giving the spot an aesthetic rehab, putting in floor-to-ceiling windows, adding a nice Italian door to the entryway, and building a trellis over the deck, among other cosmetic improvements, like getting rid of the tilted floor in the back room.
“I didn’t think I had another restaurant in me, honestly. Lucca does fine, and I’m enjoying life, but this fell in my lap.”
He expects to be open by mid-March, after the Charleston Wine + Food Festival.