The Italian oven, with its rotating stone deck, is the hub of the Noosh Nosh kitchen. | Photo by Steve Coomes
The Italian oven, with its rotating stone deck, is the hub of the Noosh Nosh kitchen. | Photo by Steve Coomes

It’s impossible to step inside the dining room of Noosh Nosh All-Day Oven (4816 Brownsboro Center) without your eyes being drawn immediately right. Affixed to the restaurant’s wall are more than 900 painted and bare wood pizza peels (the teardrop-shaped tools used to slide pizzas into the oven) layered in a linear pattern as precise as fish scales. The sight is arresting, purposefully thematic and deliberately playful. And according to Paula Barmore, who owns Noosh Nosh with husband and chef Anoosh Shariat, there’s a pattern to be found in the array.

“The architect said I’ll recognize it someday, that it’s kind of like how you see Muhammad Ali’s face in the Ali Center (exterior) downtown,” she says. “I can’t see it yet, but maybe I will after a really long day here … or an extra glass of wine. Either way, I think it’s beautiful.”

Co-owner and chef, Anoosh Shariat. Behind him is a wall of pizza peels. | Photo by Steve Coomes
Co-owner and chef, Anoosh Shariat. Behind him is a wall of pizza peels. | Photo by Steve Coomes

It is, but it also reflects Shariat’s current state of mind: in hundreds of places at once; torn between duty and whimsy; directing his team toward the restaurant’s completion while admitting he’s fighting a losing battle to trim back an expansive menu.

“I think there’s still about 4,000 items on it,” he laughs. “I’m not kidding. It’s out of control. But it’s hard to cut it down because those items are like babies. But at some point, you have to decide which ones you’ll kick out.”

Adding with his infectious grin, he says, “I really don’t want to do it.”

But he’ll have to by Monday, May 23, the planned opening date for a restaurant conceived about a year ago. Located directly behind his popular Anoosh Bistro and next door to Gasthaus, the city’s only German restaurant, Noosh Nosh marks the center’s second completely casual restaurant. The other is the longstanding Shady Lane Café. That restaurant is about one-third the size of Noosh Nosh, which will seat 120 inside and another dozen or so outside.

What’s certain about Shariat’s menu is much of it will come from the ruby red-tiled, domed Italian oven at its center (hence the “Oven” in the name) in the form of pizzas, baked pastas, roasted vegetables, baked egg dishes, sandwiches, roasted chickens and more.

To be fair, Shariat’s chef friends share some of the blame for the currently unwieldy menu. Over the past year he’s polled them to see what they’d like when they come. Their responses were consistent only in their desire for simplicity. Apparently none of them considered bridling its variety.

“You ask any chef what they want to eat at a restaurant or at home, and they’ll tell you just regular food,” Shariat says. “Their answers were all over the place. Mine, too. It’s got plenty of things I like to eat.”

That means wide-ranging international flavors, which isn’t surprising for the Iran native who’s lived abroad most of his life. In Louisville alone he’s owned two restaurants, Shariat’s and Browning’s Brewery at Slugger Field. After selling Browning’s to owners of Against the Grain almost five years ago, he’s worked as a consultant chef.

“So, we’ll have four to five breakfast omelets, and people can create their own,” he says. “We’ll have a crepe machine for making sweet and savory crepes: chicken and shrimp or bananas foster and Nutella.”

As he speaks, a grin emerges. It’s as if hearing himself speak the details of his menu out loud forces him to acknowledge its daunting diversity.

“We’re doing a couple of pressed sandwiches: one is a Bombay sandwich with cucumber bread, mint sauce and tamarind sauce,” he says. “Of course, we’ll do a lot of pizzas, too.”

Noosh Nosh in Brownsboro Center. | Photo by Steve Coomes
Noosh Nosh in Brownsboro Center | Photo by Steve Coomes

All of those will be personal 12-inch pies with — you guessed it — a wide and undetermined range of toppings that, as of this day, included sauces like chimichurri and tikka masala. His pizza dough will be made from an undetermined brand of organic flour.

“We’ve tested several different flours, but we’ve not made our final pick yet,” says executive chef Richard Doering, a veteran of several local kitchens, including the Bristol Bar & Grille. As he speaks, he places a simple mozzarella and red sauce pie on the table. The golden-brown crust is spotted randomly from the searing deck of the 650-degree oven, a desired feature pizza makers call “leoparding.” It is perfectly chewy and crispy and will surely be regarded as one of the city’s best.

Soon a second pizza arrives smeared with the pulp of roasted eggplant and dotted with olive slices. Shariat calls it “just another experiment,” but it’s likely it’ll make the menu under some Mediterranean name. Doering brings another plate, this one bearing a “sandwich” of house-made pastrami and sauerkraut dusted with caraway seeds, wrapped in pizza dough and baked. While I chew happily, he and Shariat debate its pluses and minuses while agreeing it’s well on its way to making the cut.

Soon, general manager Brian Kidd arrives with a bottle of Hop Nosh beer, and Shariat beams.

“You have to love the name, right?” he says. Everything, it seems, ties back to the restaurant’s moniker. Especially the “All-Day” part, which implies it’ll serve breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week, 7 a.m.-10 p.m. on Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-midnight on Saturday, and possibly 8 a.m.-8 p.m. on Sundays.

“On Sundays, we’ll see what the neighborhood wants us to do,” Shariat says, referring to the thousands of families nearby in Indian Hills, Winding Falls, Northfield, Windy Hills and others. “This is definitely a family place. Everybody should be comfortable here. We want people to bring their kids and relax, watch a game, just hang out.”

Just one of many pizzas destined to be baked at Noosh Nosh. | Photo by Steve Coomes
Just one of many pizzas destined to be baked at Noosh Nosh. | Photo by Steve Coomes

In addition to a full bar with a custom cocktail menu, Noosh Nosh will serve scratch-made gelato, a range of coffees, house-smoked meats and have a scratch bread program including brioche and baguette. On a recent visit to Pizza Expo, the world’s largest pizza-centered tradeshow in Las Vegas, Shariat “bought about everything in sight,” including the oven, the gelato maker, a hand-driven flywheel slicer for cured meats, a spiral dough mixer — all of it pricey gear. “Oh, they saw me coming!”

Barmore jokes the chef’s top-of-the-line pieces are “his toys,” and Shariat laughs before adding that he wanted the right stuff or none at all.

“I tried to buy local stuff, but all the stuff I wanted was Italian,” he says, smiling. “We want to do it right here.”

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Steve Coomes
Steve Coomes is a restaurant veteran turned award-winning food, spirits and travel writer. In his 24-year career, he has edited and written for multiple national trade and consumer publications including Nation's Restaurant News and Southern Living. He is a feature writer for Louisville magazine, Edible Louisville & The Bluegrass and Food & Dining Magazine. The author of two books, "Country Ham: A Southern Tradition of Hogs, Salt & Smoke," and the "Home Distiller's Guide to Spirits," he also serves as a ghostwriter for multiple clients.