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September 8, 2023

Saying farewell to a South End legend

Chef Michael Shortino opening Futo Buta was a pivotal moment

by Kristen Wile

Michael Shortino and his daughter Cassie. Photo courtesy

Michael Shortino made South End’s restaurant scene cool.

When he opened Futo Buta, it was one of the most talked about restaurants among chefs. The tiny, ramen restaurant on the light rail felt transplanted from one of the bigger cities Charlotte always compares itself to, yet also felt right at home. From the tongue-in-cheek artwork on the walls to the communal seating, Futo Buta reflected the vibrancy of the person who brought the restaurant into life. Even after Shortino’s death, which we learned of this week, his energy will permeate the restaurant.

“It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of Chef Michael Shortino, the visionary chef and owner of Futo Buta and Lincoln’s Haberdashery in Charlotte,” the chef’s family shared in a statement. “Shortino, a 3rd generation chef, was not only a culinary trailblazer but also a beloved member of the hospitality community. His passion for food, creativity, and dedication to providing exceptional experiences influenced the teams, friends and patrons of his restaurants and beyond.”

The legacy of that creativity lingers in South End, a reputation earned through Futo Buta’s unmatchable presence, one so strong that it kept South End’s indie cool alive even as rent has gotten so expensive that the area is filling with national chains.

Shortino was never one for shortcuts, serving ramen broth that took days to prepare. I recall sitting at Futo Buta’s small bar not long after the no-reservations spot opened in 2015. Shortino’s physical exhaustion was apparent as he worked endlessly to meet the nonstop demand of Charlotte diners. Yet his precision and dedication never waned.

Futo Buta and Lincoln’s Haberdashery will remain in operation, under the guidance of chef Michael Shortino’s daughter, Cassie Shortino, a two-time James Beard semifinalist, and Courtney Estes.

“Courtney Estes was partners with Michael in life and in business,” a representative for the family says. “From the beginning, she helped Shortino open Futo Buta and is an owner and operator of Lincoln’s. She will continue to work alongside Shortino’s daughter Cassie to provide vision and creative to both brands.”

Chef Michael Shortino, you will be missed.

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