Candler park staple Gato, which has hosted and helped foster numerous pop-ups over its 10-year lifespan, will transform into Gigi’s Italian Kitchen full-time in August, owner Nicholas Stinson confirmed with Eater Atlanta.
This is not a closure, but instead a new chapter, Stinson says. The space itself will not undergo major changes, and some of Gato’s staff is staying on — in fact, they’re already working shifts under both operations. Gato’s vibe and ethos will remain intact.
“I think with the city, or at least the dining scene reeling from what’s happening between 8ARM and what’s also happening at the entire Bookhouse, Drunken Unicorn, MJQ, all that stuff, we want to emphasize that Gato is transforming into Gigi’s. They want to continue the same history of pop-ups and trying to cultivate a more unique dining scene here in Atlanta, which is what we’ve been trying to do here for the last decade.”
For Stinson, the timing felt right. “I’ve been here for 13 years and I feel like I’ve done about as much as I can do,” he says. Stinson and his family are moving to the Santa Fe area, and he says he’ll likely open a restaurant in New Mexico.
Gato’s last dinner service will be Saturday, July 23. The space will then close for a few weeks for remodeling and other changes before reopening as Gigi’s in early August.
“[Gigi’s] could go be in some mixed-use development home or go jump into some new ahistorical situations that Atlanta is becoming. Jacob [Armando] and Eric [Brooks] are both from Atlanta and they want to, in a constructive way, show how a city can change and a restaurant can change, but still have a sense of history and not just kind of bulldoze everything.”
The decision was very much under Stinson’s control.
“It was something I brought up to them between 6 and 9 months ago,” he says. “I’ve known Jacob for almost a decade. He worked as a sous chef when Jarrett [Stieber] was here at Eat Me Speak Me. I’ve seen him grow and change both as a person and as a professional.”
Gato and Gigi’s started collaborating on pop-ups in the summer of 2021. “They approached me coming out of Covid last spring about once we reopened that they wanted to try to do some kind of a pop-event here,” Stinson says. “A few months after they’d gotten started, and I just saw how well it was doing, and how good a fit it was for the space in a way that i couldn’t have seen beforehand.”
Although Stinson will be elsewhere, he’s still going to be involved in consulting. “Our two businesses are going to be tied together for at least another year and a half to two years. Gato itself will vanish as the public face of it, but I’ll still be interwoven into the situation,” he says. In the long term, though, Stinson will relinquish his ownership. “When it’s all said and done, it will be Jacob and Eric’s responsibility to go forward.”
In a city that’s constantly transforming, it’s comforting to know that Gigi’s will maintain Gato’s ethos of innovation and collaboration in addition to the space’s atmosphere and integrity.
“I want them to be successful and to continue to make innovating, amazing, beautiful stuff. It’s a good thing for all the parties involved. I’m gonna miss Atlanta, but I’m excited about moving to a new part of the country and seeing what I can create out there,” he says. “I think it’s a good fit for everyone.”