Futo Buta

Charlotte’s Favorite Ramen House | How Two Men Are Changing Charlotte’s Culinary Scene

It’s not easy to connect the red checkered table clothes and spaghetti stains of Goodfellas to the delicate and subtle dishes that hail from Japan, but in Charlotte such a connection exists. His name is Michael Shortino.

Growing up in the kitchens of New York with his father and grandfather—both chefs—Shortino developed a passion for the kitchen early on. And although his earliest glimpses into the world of cooking were in those classic Italian restaurants we all recognize from cinema, Shortino stopped cooking those dishes a long time ago.

For 20 years, in Phoenix and more recently in Charlotte, Shortino has concentrated on the quiet art of Japanese cuisine. The integrity and exactitude of the Japanese culture—especially in cuisine—captured his cooking heart.

After opening Baku, a Robata lounge, in Charlotte, Shortino decided to invest in his own enterprise: Futo Buta.

Long before the ramen house became a reality, Shortino was joined by his business partner Tsuyoshi Ono from Tokyo. “We are great friends and met when I opened Baku. He was a crucial ally in that opening,” notes Shortino. “I realized his level of integrity for our profession matched mine and we set off to change the culinary landscape of Charlotte together.”

And changing it they are. Futo Buta is unlike any other eatery in our city, with fresh, refined, and unique takes on Japanese cuisine. They offer unique, Southernized fare with Japanese roots, including lots of steaming ramen heaped with fresh ingredients. “We make everything from scratch at Futo,” says Shortino, citing Japanese integrity as inspiration. “That’s very difficult to do for such a small restaurant, and requires 15-20 cooks at once.”

It may be difficult, but it’s worth it. With dishes like Spicy Tuna Crispy Rice that are simple enough to make at home (check out the recipe!), but complex in flavor, Futo Buta has become a staple of Charlotte’s culinary landscape.

Next up for Shortino? Lincoln’s Haberdashery and Provisions, a new grocery market and casual eatery in Factory South with fresh fare and quality wines, cheeses and bites. “We wanted to create something for the neighborhood,” says Shortino. One thing we know they’re creating for the neighborhood: happy palates.