Chef Andy Pignatora of Breakaway Cafe

Breakaway Cafe: Where Community Gathers

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If you find yourself traveling anywhere near Chapel Hill, Carrboro, or Pittsboro, we highly recommend that you stop by Breakaway Cafe for their breakfast, lunch or dinner. The venue is full of warmth and light, the ambience is casual (it’s a mandatory stop for area cyclists), and the food is delicious and wholesome. We recently had the chance to visit with owner, Andy Pignatora, to learn more about his history and the vision for Breakaway Cafe.

How did you become a chef?
I started working in restaurants at age 13.  First as a busboy, and then, because I always showed up early, they had me do prep. Eventually I was working on the line. Restaurant work is highly portable and I spent 15 years working in the food industry in some capacity. When I burned out on that type of work, I went into the sports industry, specializing in sales.

When was Breakaway conceived?
My wife and I were on a 600-mile, one week bike trip in Oregon when we dreamt up Breakaway Cafe. Originally, the plan was to hire a chef and I would focus on being a manager. Unfortunately, the people we hired didn’t work out. So, I am back in the kitchen now.  But the ultimate goal is for me to spend less time cooking and more time running the cafe.

What is the inspiration for your cuisine?
Breakaway Cafe is a communal gathering point. That was always the intent. We live nearby and when we assessed the needs of the community, it became obvious that we needed a community centered coffee shop. Since then, we have evolved and now have an extensive menu. Our cuisine is really American cuisine. It encompasses everything. My wife and I are both Italian American and my grandmother’s port of entry to the U.S. was New Orleans. So I grew up with all those influences. I believe American cuisine is a sense of what we all are–a mix of where we come from and who we have become.

Why do you purchase Firsthand Foods meats?
One of our core values that we wanted to stick to when we opened was to source sustainable and humane meat. Working with Firsthand Foods takes the work out of it because they already work with farmers in North Carolina who are raising animals in that way. We knew we had to do it the right way both personally and in our restaurant.