CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Bertucci's Brick Oven Pizzeria will in January open the first of what could become six restaurants in Charlotte.

According to the Charlotte Business Journal, the Northborough, Mass., chain will spend $1.2 million outfitting a 5,700-square-foot space in a retail shopping center.

The mid-scale pizza and Italian food chain has 78 stores on the East Coast from New Hampshire to Virginia.

"We are coming on hard and strong," says Greg Pastore, Bertucci's vice president of development. "We are looking at five or six other locations in Charlotte ... in addition to looking at locations in Raleigh and Winston-Salem."

Pastore called Charlotte an ideal area for expansion because of its "dense, affluent population," and because it was a logical geographic extension of the company.

The birth of two similar mid-scale pizza companies in the last five years, Brixx Pizza and Fuel Pizza Café, has made Charlotte a sort of pizza proving ground. Like Bertucci's, Brixx offers a wide menu of appetizers and entrees in addition to pizza, plus it emphasizes a strong bar and entertainment business. Fuel's menu is more focused on high-end pizzas sold whole and by the slice.

There is one Brixx store and five Fuel stores in the area.

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