HAMPSTEAD — Big Al’s Pub & Grubberia owner Frank Conti moved to the coast to retire and get a taste of the beach life, but when he saw the space available in the Hampstead Town Center, he thought it too good to pass up.
“It’s the biggest shopping center in Hampstead, right across from the school with houses all around you and a golf course behind you. It was just a no-brainer,” Conti said.
Conti, who’s owned multiple Big Al’s restaurants in the Charlotte area and even in West Virginia, said the location’s similarity to the original restaurant was reason enough to pull him out of retirement. Like Big Al’s that opened in 1996 in Mooresville, just north of Charlotte, the restaurant sits in a busy plaza at the center of a growing retirement community.
The Italian-American restaurant opened last Wednesday to test the waters.
“We don’t do grand openings,” Conti said. “Just soft openings, to get the party started.”
He said Big Al’s was originally known for its Italian specialties like pizza and calzones but the menu has since evolved to include a more diverse set of classic American options, including sandwiches, salads, wraps, soups, chicken wings, foot-long hot dogs, and an “adult mac and cheese” bowl that you can top with pork, beef, or grilled or fried chicken.
The restaurant has a relaxed family-friendly sports bar vibe, with amusing posters on the wall — “Friends come and go but enemies accumulate,” reads one — and, in general, is reminiscent of a fictional bar made famous on television in the eighties.
“It would be your ‘Cheers’ pub,” Conti said of the restaurant’s atmosphere.
There are two other Big Al’s restaurants currently in operation — the original in Mooreseville, which he sold to his sister in 2015, and one in Charlotte.
For now. Big Al’s will be open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week, although it may close earlier Monday through Wednesdays and stay open later on weekends.
The restaurant is located at 17230 N. Highway 17 in the Hampstead Town Center, directly across the Hampstead Branch Library and adjacent to the Olde Point Country Club.
Mark Darrough an be reached at Mark@Localvoicemedia.com or (970) 413-3815