Wednesday, January 30, 2008

New Italian Restaurant to Open Thursday!

"Mulberry on Main Italian Restaurant and Catering" will open for business tomorrow (Thursday, January 31) beginning at 5:00 pm. "We are very excited," said owners Jerry and Bernadette Gubitosi. The restaurant will be open for dinner Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. For more information call 550-7400 or check out an article from the Clayton News Star at

Eye of the Eagle Art Events

Eye of the Eagle Arts at 131 E First Street in downtown Clayton is a new center for creative endeavors - with classes for all ages in visual art, music and performance. Owner Bonnie Light says the facility, one of the older homes in Clayton, is open on a limited basis right now, but will grow into an art gallery as well as a place for workshops and lessons.

Here are some upcoming events, but to keep up with the activities, be sure to check out their blog at

The following events are at no charge to the public.

February 9th from 2:30 pm - 5:00 pm we will be having a ”Art From the Heart” workshop.

March 15th from 2:30 pm - 5:00 pm we will be having a “Art-A-Hopping” workshop.

* Children 5 - 16 make an item for their favorite Valentine. Using their creativity and supplied or found objects they will make a one-of-a-kind gift. Please bring any objects you would like to add to your creation.

April 19th from 10:00 am - 6:00 pm we will be celebrating “Our Green Earth” with speakers, presentations, plant sales, painted recyle bin auctions and art activities that are all EARTH friendly. Proceeds from the event will go to varies charities. Check the Eye of the Eagle Art calendar for scheduled speakers.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Jazz Royalty Makes Clayton Debut

Jazz royalty Freddy Cole makes his Clayton debut on Saturday, February 9 at 8 p.m. at The Clayton Center. A GRAMMY-nominee and recipient of the 2005 Living Legend Jazz Award, Freddy Cole, younger brother of Nat “King” Cole, is an accomplished pianist and an extraordinary vocalist hailed by The New York Times as “the most maturely expressive male jazz singer of his generation, if not the best alive.”

Born Lionel Frederick Cole October 15, 1931, Freddy is the youngest of five children. His three elder brothers, Eddie, Ike and Nat (twelve years Freddy's senior) were all musicians.

Surrounded by music in his youth, visitors to his family’s home in Chicago included Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Lionel Hampton. A natural musician, Freddy was also a gifted athlete with professional aspirations. After a high school sports injury put an end to his budding football career, he decided to pursue music, issuing his first recording, "The Joke's On Me," in 1952.

Freddy studied at the Juilliard School of Music and later received a Master's degree at the New England Conservatory of Music. During his formative years in New York, Freddy studied the way horn players formed phrases in their solos and cultivated a sparse, swinging vocal style that would become his signature.

Freddy has toured extensively for over 40 year, developing a sophistication of his own with vocals among the most respected in jazz. Still, the comparisons to big brother Nat are inevitable. There are certain unmistakable similarities. He plays piano and sings; he performs live using the same band format as his brother (a piano trio featuring guitar and bass). And then there’s the instantly recognizable Cole voice. But Freddy has developed his own distinctive sound. His vocals, suave, elegant and formidable are smokier and jazzier than his late brother. His phrasing is far closer to that of Frank Sinatra or Billie Holiday and his timing swings a little more.

The February 9 concert is presented in connection with the Short Circuit Traveling Film Festival which will be held at The Clayton Center on Thursday, February 7. Among other entries, the film festival will feature “The Cole Nobody Knows” a documentary about Freddy, who at age 75 is at last being recognized for his own musical talent. Director Clay Walker will be present at the screening in Clayton to introduce his film and answer questions. Tickets to the film festival are $2.50; however admission is free to patrons who purchase tickets to the Freddy Cole concert.

Freddy Cole’s performance is presented as part of The Clayton Center’s 2007-08 season. Next in the Center’s lineup is Blues Bash III featuring Albert White and Beverly “Guitar” Watkins on February 29.

Tickets for Freddy Cole in concert are $22 plus convenience fees. Individual tickets may be purchased online at, by phone at 919-553-1737 or at The Clayton Center Box Office at 111 E. Second St. in downtown Clayton from 10 a.m. until noon and from 1 until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Grannises to fire up the grill at new steakhouse

News Editor
Clayton News Star

Michael Grannis just can’t seem to stay away from the kitchen.

Not content to handle a share of the breakfast duties at The Morning Glory Inn, which he’s owned with wife Betsy for the past five years, the one-time broiler cook for Sizzlers is returning to his roots next month when he opens the Clayton Steakhouse at 307 E. Main St.

Ironically, the new restaurant opens just a month after the closing of downtown Clayton’s original fine-dinner location, Main Steak Bistro, which closed its doors on Dec. 21 after seven years. “We actually had an opportunity last year to buy [Main Steak], but I felt the price was too high,” Grannis said. But even though he concedes that the final cost of renovating the old Fishman’s Feedery (the most recent in a string of dining-related businesses, including Farmer’s Market Café, El Rancherito and Macon’s Table, to locate in the building in the last 40-plus years) is probably more than the cost of buying Main Steak would have been, the end result will be worth the extra bucks.

“This floor plan is more conducive to what I want to do [than Main Steak’s],” Grannis said. “Plus, the landlord [HTR Investments] is taking care of most of the renovation cost. That’s coming back to me in the lease payments, but it’s still a better situation than we were looking at for some of the other locations we had in mind.”
Main Steak’s closing, which had been rumored to be in the offing for some time, was a factor in the decision to get back into the restaurant business, Grannis said. The couple previously owned restaurants in California for seven years before moving to Clayton, first in 1999 and again in 2003.

“We actually had been looking for two years for a location around town,” he said. “We looked at Main Steak, at Jeme’s [later Good Times Café], the Clayton Mart, even the new strip center they’re building out by Lowe’s Foods. By the beginning of 2006, we were thinking about putting a full-service kitchen in the inn and starting a catering business out of there.”

But when Barry Woodard offered Grannis a deal to rent (with an option to buy) the Main Street location, the opportunity was tempting enough to convince the Clayton town councilman to resign his two-year sales and marketing position with AB Automotive in Smithfield to pursue it.

Slated to open the first or second week of February, the Clayton Steakhouse encompasses 3,000 square feet on the south side of Main Street, almost directly across from Main Steak’s former location.

The main dining area can seat 76 people at 17 tables, seven situated in a private room that is first-come, first-serve. “We won’t accept reservations except for special occasions,” Grannis said.

A small bar up front features two high tables and a lounge area that can seat about 15. The bar will operate only during the restaurant’s hours and will offer top-shelf liquors, wines from California and Italy and a variety of lesser-known label and microbrew beers such as Red Tail Ale, Blue Moon, Sam Adams and Amstel, as well as the more traditional labels such as Bud and Miller Lite, Michelob and Yingling. Foreign brew connoisseurs will have a choice of Bass, Guinness, Corona and Dos Equis.
Dining fare for the Clayton Steakhouse has been kept simple. There are just five main entrees: ribeye steak (starting at eight ounces, increasing in two-ounce increments, with corresponding $2 price increases, up to a 32-ounce platter buster); a 12-ounce pork chop; an eight-ounce breast of chicken; an eight-ounce salmon fillet; and a loaded baked potato. All entries (except the baked potato) come with an unlimited salad bar featuring iceberg and romaine lettuce, 12 additional items and five or six dressings along with a standard baked potato. Drinks – also with free refills – include coffee, tea and Pepsi products.

The 800-square-foot kitchen has been completely remodeled and contains more than 15 pieces of equipment – all except one brand new.

Prices range from $8.95 for the stand-alone loaded baked potato to between $15 and $20 for the non-steak entrees. “The average bill is about $21 plus tax, which I think is a pretty good value,” Grannis said. Initially, the Clayton Steakhouse will be open for dinner only on Tuesdays through Thursdays from 5 to 9 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Eventually, Grannis hopes to offer a Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and a weekday lunch at the same hours from Tuesday through Saturday.

“I’d characterize this as a comfortable eating experience,” he said. “It won’t be fine dining; you don’t have to wear a coat and tie, and our staff will be dressed casually.” That staff will include Grannis, who intends to serve as the head cook until he can train a replacement. Betsy Grannis, who does the baking for the Morning Glory Inn, will handle the same chores for the restaurant, and other staff from the inn will be among the original seven-member crew that will work at the steakhouse.
Despite the past history of restaurants that have come – and all too often gone – on Main Street, Grannis believes there’s a place for not only the Clayton Steakhouse but the other new eateries planned for downtown.

“I think that with The Flipside, Mulberry, the new Mexican restaurant, and whoever does eventually replace Main Steak, you have enough diversity to attract people to come downtown to eat,” he said. “And if you produce a good product – not just the food, but your service and prices – and can create a certain ambience, or ‘welcomeness,’ as I call it, people will enjoy the experience.”

But most of all, Grannis feels a successful downtown restaurant will be another way of giving back to a community his family has become devoted to. “Even though Betsy and I weren’t born here, we consider ourselves locals,” he said. “People here have supported me by electing me to the Town Council and supported the inn to the nth degree, and this is our way of giving back and thanking them for that support. We plan to stay here, and this is part of that commitment.”

Clayton to experience a taste of Oaxaca

Clayton News Star

Azalea Villalobos doesn’t want people to describe her soon-to-be-open restaurant as “authentic.”

That buzzword’s meaning, she says, has become as diluted as the food served up in most of the Tex-Mex restaurants in the United States. Instead, she promises diners gastronomic pleasures rooted in “traditional” Mexican cuisine – specifically, the cuisine of her native Oaxaca state, located in southern Mexico. “People here need to know what traditional flavor is,” Villalobos said.

She and her husband, Rodolfo San Juan, hope to open their new restaurant, El Sabor de Oaxaca (“The Taste of Oaxaca”), by the end of the month. The eatery will be in the storefront at 226 E. Main St., formerly the location of El Michoacano, also a Mexican restaurant. Villalobos said she expects El Sabor to be open seven days a week from about 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., but “customers will dictate our hours.”

The couple draws on a family tradition of restaurant ownership. Villalobos and San Juan owned a restaurant in Oaxaca, and San Juan’s mother and grandmother both ran restaurants, as well. “It’s a tradition with his family going back 70 or 80 years,” Villalobos said. One of the traditional tastes El Sabor will serve up is mole, a complex sauce containing chocolate, tomato, chile peppers and a variety of other ingredients, depending on the particular recipe. Oaxaca is famous among Mexicans for its moles. Villalobos said she intends to serve enchiladas with mole sauce and a side of black beans for about $8.

Another traditional Oaxacan food that will be featured at El Sabor will be tlayudas – large, semi-toasted corn tortillas made by hand and topped with a variety of items, such as beans, tomatoes, avacado, meat, cheese and salsa (think Mexican pizza). They are a popular street vendor food in Oaxaca.

The restaurant also will offer set meals in the $8-$9 range. The meals will include a soup or consume, rice or pasta, a main dish with meat and a small dessert.
There also will be the taco and enchilada options with which American diners are more familiar. Red or green sauce will be available with the enchiladas.

El Sabor will be open for breakfast, with breads, tamales (wrapped in banana leaves, Oaxaca style), tacos ($1.50-$1.75) and burritos available. One treat that will be new to some diners will be champurrado, a hot, chocolate-based drink thickened with corn flour. Try it with a couple of tamales for just $4.50.

Takeout will be available, and San Juan said they will try to offer delivery.
Villalobos and San Juan may have a strong background in operating restaurants, but they know more than just restaurant work.

Villalobos earned a degree in business from a prestigious university in Mexico City and managed an information technology firm in Mexico. San Juan received a law degree in Oaxaca and was a practicing lawyer with the Mexican government.But they emigrated to the United States in search of greater opportunity and now live in Angier. They are expecting a child next month.

Villalobos and San Juan speak highly of Clayton and hope eventually to move here. “It’s a traditional town,” San Juan said. “It’s a cute place,” Villalobos added.

New Italian restaurant keeps it in the family

Clayton News Star

Gennarino Gubitosi discovered early on that he enjoyed cooking. As a young boy, Gubitosi, who goes by Jerry, found joy in helping his mother in the kitchen. Today, he’s still working with his mother in the kitchen.

The Gubitosi family – mom included – is gearing up to open their new restaurant, Mulberry on Main, at the end of the month. The restaurant, located at 217 E. Main St. (formerly Good Times Café), also will serve as a base of operations for the Gubitosis’ highly successful corporate catering business. The restaurant will be open 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. It also can be reserved for private parties Monday through Saturday. Gubitosi will be joined in the kitchen by his wife, Bernadette, and his mother, Antonietta. Three sisters and four of his seven daughters also are expected to pitch in.

An outsider might wonder whether family members can work together in the pressure-filled environment of a restaurant kitchen and still get along at the end of the work day. But Bernadette Gubitosi says it’s no problem with a boss like her husband. “He’s pretty easy to work with,” she said.

Jerry Gubitosi’s family initially came to the United States in the early 1900s, but he was born in Italy, in a town near Naples. His grandfather returned to Italy after serving in Africa in World War I. His father and mother emigrated to the United States with young Jerry in 1966. But after a stint in New York, the family went back to Italy. Then they returned to the Big Apple – this time for good. As Gubitosi jokes on his menu, “I think we were the only family in New York that ‘came off the boat’ twice!”

Gubitosi’s extensive restaurant experience started at age 18, when he took a job at a popular pizzeria in New Jersey. He eventually honed his skills to the point where he could land a job at a four-star Italian restaurant. After Jerry and Bernadette married in 1986, they opened an Italian restaurant, Casa Gennaro, in an up-and-coming small town in New Jersey called Hackettstown. It was town a lot like Clayton, Gubitosi said. “It had that hometown feeling,” he said.Casa Gennaro closed Sept. 10, 2001 – right before the restaurant business in the greater New York area took a hit because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

In 2004, the family moved to North Carolina and launched a corporate catering service whose clients are primarily pharmaceutical firms. The business involves preparation of about 700 meals a week and covers a wide swath of central and eastern North Carolina. “[Jerry] doesn’t tell anybody no,” Bernadette Gubitosi said.

Mulberry on Main takes its name from the street in New York’s Little Italy where Gubitosi’s grandfather settled. By coincidence, when Jerry and Bernadette were dating, their favorite restaurant, Angelo’s, happened to be on Mulberry Street, too.
Mulberry on Main will feature, among other items, Antonietta Gubitosi’s handmade manicotti ($9.95). Other familiar baked items will include ziti ($8.95), lasagna ($10.95) and eggplant parmigiana ($12.95). Pastas, including a tortellini alfredo with tossed peas and proscuitto ham, will range from $8.95 to $10.95 in price.

Various meat and seafood entrees will range from chicken parmigiana for $12.95 to zuppa di pesce all vincenzo (mussels, shrimp, calamari, scallops and baby clams in a homemade marinara sauce and served on linguini) for $18.95. House specialties will include “three amici” (three friends) – shrimp, veal and chicken francese sautéed in a lemon-wine sauce and served over linguine – for $17.95. Mulberry on Main also will be able to serve customers a wide variety of gourmet pizzas up to 16 inches in size and $18.45 in price. Takeout orders will be accepted. The restaurant’s main number will be 550-7400. To find out about catering, call 616-8995.

Gubitosi is eager to teach Clayton about great Italian food. “It’s about a lot more than just red sauce,” he said.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

NBC-17 At The Coffee Mill on Friday Morning

Your chance of getting on television is better now, at The Coffee Mill, than anywhere else....unless you work for them of course...or are wanted by the FBI, Homeland Security...

NBC 17 will be at The Coffee Mill this Friday morning!!!
Make sure you're there. You don't want to miss out on all the fun.
Between 8:30 and 10:00a.m.

Tonight: Karaoke

Friday night: DL Token

Saturday night: Valentino & The Piedmont Sheiks

Mardi Gras Party with Zydecopious on Februray 2nd
Superbowl Slam down on February 3rd

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Clayton Chamber Citizen & Business of Year and Other Awards...

The Clayton Area Chamber of Commerce held it's 57th Annual Installation and Awards Ceremony tonight at the Sandbar on Hwy 70 Bus (it's the new name - more on that later!) and several people and businesses were honored.

Incoming Chamber President, Keith Branch announced that Jim Lee (left) was named 2007 Outstanding Citizen of the Year.

Ann Austin announced the winner of the 2007 Small Business of the Year: Hometowne Realty. James Lipscomb and Barry Woodard received the Award, and partner Duke Nichols joined them for photos afterward.

Clayton Mayor Jody McLeod awarded the new Wachovia Bank with the Town of Clayton the Landscaping Award and Walthom Group was honored with the Clayton Community Enhancement Award for replacing the old Dairy King building with the sharp-looking Verizon building just before the intersection of Hwy 70 and Main Street.

Clayton Rotary Club President, Allan DeLaine presented Ernest Blackley with the Rotary Community Service Award

And Heather Wallace received the 2007 Civitan Award.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Short Circuit Film Festival ...New Orleans, Atlanta, Charlotte, Tampa and....Clayton!

A traveling film festival making a stop at The Clayton Center on Thursday, February 7 will spotlight twelve short films created by filmmakers living and working in the Southeast.

The 1st Annual Short Circuit Traveling Film Festival, a project of the Southern Arts Federation, will present a dozen short films selected for their artistic merit by a panel of media arts professionals. After the screening, two filmmakers will be present to answer audience questions about their respective films and the film industry. The selections range from fiction and animation to experimental and documentary by filmmakers from Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina and Tennessee. The Johnston County Arts Council and The Clayton Center are collaborating to present the festival.

The festival, traveling to seventeen different cities around the Southeast including New Orleans, Atlanta, Tampa, and Charlotte, will begin at 7:00pm and will last for 2.5 hours. General Admission is $2.50.

Featured in the 2007-2008 Short Circuit Traveling Film Festival is the documentary “The Cole Nobody Knows" about musician Nat King Cole's younger and equally talented brother, who at age 75 is at last being recognized for his own musical talent. Director Clay Walker will be present at the screening in Clayton to introduce his film and answer questions. The Film Festival is a prelude to The Clayton Center’s February 9 concert featuring Freddy Cole. Admission to the film festival is free to individuals who purchase tickets to Saturday’s concert.

Heidi Stump, Executive Director of The Clayton Center says she is excited about hosting Clayton’s first film festival and hopes to build an audience for future film fests. “Johnston County is an area rich in musical, theatrical, literary and visual arts, but film is one area that is only just beginning to reach the community. The Short Circuit Film Festival will be an excellent opportunity to introduce residents to a new and exciting art form,” states Jessica Meadows, Executive Director of the Johnston County Arts Council.

For a list of films and the festival schedule visit the Short Circuit Traveling Film Festival at

Friday, January 11, 2008

Downtown Clayton Event Calendar

Remember, it is always best to call the venue or contact number for the latest updates!

Friday, January 11
THE FLIPSIDE 408 E Second Street, 553-0123: T. Rox & The Skankosaurs (Ska)
THE CLAYTON CENTER, 111 E Second Street, 553-1737: Flying Karamazov Brothers

Saturday, January 12
CLAYTON HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION, Library, 553-5334: General Membership Meeting
THE FLIPSIDE 408 E Second Street, 553-0123: Maria Rolls and the Blues Train (Blues)

Tuesday, January 15
THE FLIPSIDE 408 E Second Street, 553-0123: Open Mic hosted by Tracy Wiebeck

Friday, January 18
THE FLIPSIDE 408 E Second Street, 553-0123: Great Big Gone (rootsy Americana)

Saturday, January 19
THE FLIPSIDE 408 E Second Street, 553-0123: Full Moon Pie (Americana/rock)

Tuesday, January 22
THE FLIPSIDE 408 E Second Street, 553-0123: Open Mic hosted by Tracy Wiebeck

Thursday, January 24
THE FLIPSIDE 408 E Second Street, 553-0123: Karaoke with KJ Ray 8:30 pm

Saturday, January 26
THE CLAYTON CENTER, 111 E Second Street: A Night at the Oasis (Clayton Parks & Recreation) 553-1555
THE FLIPSIDE 408 E Second Street, 553-0123: Valentino & the Piedmont Sheiks (Blues)

Sunday, January 27
THE CLAYTON CENTER, 111 E Second Street, 553-1737: Eileen Ivers & Immigrant Soul

Tuesday, January 29
THE FLIPSIDE 408 E Second Street, 553-0123: Open Mic hosted by Tracy Wiebeck

Thursday, February 7
THE CLAYTON CENTER, 111 E Second Street, 553-1737: Short Circuit Film Festival

Friday, February 9

THE CLAYTON CENTER, 111 E Second Street, 553-1737: Freddy Cole

Check out the Downtown Blog at
Always Shop Clayton First!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Dining options climb in Clayton

Here's an article from this morning News & Observer....

By Greg Cox, Correspondent
The last few weeks of 2007 brought a smorgasbord of new dining options to Clayton, and more are on the way.

The Coffee Mill, a popular downtown coffee shop by day, now morphs into Cork & Plate (105 S. Lombard St.; 550-0174), a tapas and wine bar, by night. The restaurant shares a kitchen with The FlipSide, an adjoining restaurant also owned by partners Cliff Morgan and Jodi Sager. The duties of FlipSide co-chefs Mary and Steve Punt have been expanded to include Cork & Plate's small plate offering. The husband-and-wife culinary duo have responded with a varied offering, including house-cured tuna gravlax, chorizo and queso fresco empanadas, and dukka, an Egyptian nut-and-spice spread that has proved to be a surprise hit. Cork & Plate is open from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays... (Full Story)

Monday, January 07, 2008

Rediscovering the Riches of Clayton - January 12

Join the Clayton Historical Association in a special presentation:

Rediscovering the Riches of Clayton

When: January, 12, 2008 10:30am

Where: Hocutt-Ellington Memorial Library
100 S Church Street Downtown Historical Clayton

Mr. Todd Johnson will give a presentation focusing on Rediscovering the Riches of Clayton, NC. He will talk about the new web page being launched by the Hocutt-Ellington Memorial Library.

Special emphasis will be on the 1909 Handbook of Clayton and Vicinity, and the collections of Virginia Satterfield, Horne, Hocutt-Ellington, Cooper School and Charles Barden.

For members and those who wish to join, the Clayton Historical Association will hold a general membership meeting immediately following the presentation.

No RSVP Needed.
Feel free to contact (919) 553-5334 or with questions