Toast brings Italy to Durham

By Corliss Pauling
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE

Owner Kelli Cotter in the kitchen preparing an order. Photo by Corliss Pauling

Tired of hamburgers, fries and pizza? Toast offers the Durham community the opportunity to try something new and different.

Located in downtown Durham at 345 W. Main St., Toast is dedicated to cooking genuine Italian sandwiches, soups and salads using fresh, local ingredients.

Toast, which opened Feb. 8, 2008, is owned by husband and wife Billy and Kelli Cotter.

According to the Toast website they are a paninoteca, or authentic Italian sandwich shop, much like those found in the cities and urban areas of Italy.

Billy and Kelli realized their dream of opening a restaurant when they were in the process of moving back to Durham.

“We moved around a lot when we were younger. Living in Atlanta made us want to return home after being away for a long time,” said Kelli.

The name Toast is a common named used in Italy for toasted sandwiches was thought of by Kelli’s husband Billy.

“He wanted to come with a name that was easy to pronounce and that also had a connection to Italian history and culture,” said Kelli.

With a combined 20 years of experience in the restaurant industry, Billy and Kelli are prepared to see their business grow.

“My husband has worked as a kitchen manger at Canter in Chapel Hill and as sous chef at Magnolia Grill in Durham,” said Kelli.

Kelli also said that she has worked as a waitress for seven years at Magnolia Grill.

“We offer a lot of knowledge and wisdom when it comes to being able to run a successful restaurant.”

The married couple also prides themselves in serving good quality food with the freshest ingredients to their customers.

According to Kelli “We use produce from local farmers and the Durham and Carrboro farmers market that is either delivered to us or picked up.”

The menu features four types of Italian sandwiches that include panini’s, tramezzini’s, bruschetta‘s and crostini’s. with over 12 choices the sandwiches can be ordered in a variety of ways like proscuitto, shrimp and sunchoke salad, ricotta salata and goat cheese.

Janet Karauki and Anneta Chalmers enjoying their sandwiches at Toast. Photo by Corliss Pauling

The soups and salads are also favorites among customers as well.

Sara Robert said, “My favorite item is the salad because the lettuce is fresh and green.”

The prices range from an average of $2-10.

Mary Liebelt, a frequent customer has been coming to Toast since it opened in 2008.

“The atmosphere is casual and the food is delicious,” said Liebelt.

New customer Janet Karauki said “It is my fourth time eating here at Toast and it is like a taste of heaven.”

In the two years that Toast has been opened Billy and Kelli have managed to create a welcoming place with both indoor and outdoor dining. As their restaurant continues to grow Billy and Kelli strive for their mission of providing traditional casual Italian cuisine.