Salem Is Getting an Asian Noodle Shop

The duo behind Bambolina will open Kokeshi this winter.


Bambolina. / Photo via Facebook

A little more than a year after opening a wood-fired pizzeria in downtown Salem, a couple of entrepreneurs are getting into the Asian small plates game. Bambolina partners Tim Haigh and Larry Leibowitz are teaming up again to open Kokeshi, a noodle house and street-food inspired small plates restaurant in downtown Salem.

The duo announced their plans in a blog post through Salem-based marketing firm OctoCog.

Last summer, Haigh and Leibowitz took over a former Haunted Neighborhood gift shop space with a custom-made, Acunto Mario oven. Since then, Bambolina has racked up accolades for its “Neo-Neapolitan” pies from Northshore Magazine.

Kokeshi is “going to be ‘Asian’ in the way Bambolina is ‘Italian;’ steeped in the culture but with our own casual spin,” Leibowitz told OctoCog.

There will be ramen bowls, a comfort that hasn’t made it to the historic North Shore town yet. Kokeshi will offer other Asian noodle soups, as well as “starters and shared plates of the same genre,” he said.

Haigh and Leibowitz met at a corporate catering company, where Leibowitz was a director for culinary innovation, and Haigh was a regional executive chef on the East Coast, according to OctoCog. They helped other businesses develop concepts and open before joining forces on their own projects. Bambolina means “baby doll” in Italian, and Kokeshi is a Japanese word for “doll.” The restaurant group is named for the partners’ young daughters, they told OctoCog.

Located just around the corner from Bambolina (and less than a half-mile from the MBTA Commuter Rail station), Kokeshi will seat more than 100 at communal and conventional tables. It will have a full bar, with local beers, imported sake, and mixed drinks that go with the food, Haigh said.

Buildout needs to happen, but the partners are excited about the space. “It will be rustic and industrial, high ceilings, exposed ductwork, garage doors, etc. We’re toying around with a tie-in mix of 80’s theme and classic Kung Fu memorabilia,” Leibowitz said.

Kokeshi is targeting a mid-winter debut.

41 Lafayette St., Salem,