Last week, Antico Pizza founder Giovanni Di Palma shared the details of his gelateria-cafe-limoncello bar, called Bar Antico, opening in mid October. But Di Palma's plans run much deeper; he's purchased land around Antico with the intention of creating Piazza San Gennaro, a "congregation point and destination for everyone in Atlanta." Here, he explains why and what to expect.
What do you envision for Piazza San Gennaro? What's the vibe?
It will be a landscaped plaza with lighting, security, traffic control, and plenty of parking— a place people can sit on benches and enjoy an Italian cordial or bellini, or where they can walk around after dinner and get a gelato. We're going to market it with the phrase, "meet me at the piazza." [...] I'll add to it over time. We'll have Bar Antico, of course Antico Pizza, and street carts. There's a Piazza San Gennaro in Naples, and now there'll be one in Atlanta as well.
Do you picture like a Little Italy in New York or San Francisco?
Little Italy would be a letdown; this is a minuscule Italy, but with the same feeling of a collective Italy. Everything will be fresh and natural. It's all about quality in the Italian culture, yet price is not an issue—it's affordable. Plus, we'll have gift cards and credit cards that can be used at any business in the Piazza.
Why now all of a sudden?
I always had this idea, and the property became available. Antico is growing by 25 percent each year, and I'm comfortable with the process, the quality, and the quantity.
Last time we talked, you said you opened Antico to pursue your passion and that of your grandfather. Is the Piazza a continuation of that? How so?
The Piazza will be quintessential traditional Neapolitan, so in a way it is honoring my grandfather's legacy. Everything will come from the vicinity of our town outside Naples. We'll sell the pasta and sauces from the town, like Gragnano Pasta Di Napoli, which air dries by the sea, and offer a few cooked pasta dishes for people to enjoy in the communal spaces in the Piazza. There will be a small pastry shop behind Bar Antico, where all cannolis and pastries for the various restaurants and shops will be made. People will also be able to custom order special pastries for holidays.
Tell us about your most recent trips to Italy.
I've gone twice in the past three years. I've become a celebrity there. When I go back I'm treated like a king. I'm the only American to be written up in the Naples newspaper in an article about pizza! I've made their flour famous. Business in Italy pretty much amounts to 25 minutes detailed on a cocktail napkin and two days of eating and drinking, and the agreements are ironclad. I'm going again this month to pick tomatoes for next year.