May 12, 2023 - News

St. Vito seeks to keep it simple

Someone cuts a slice of St. Vito pizza

Photo: courtesy of St. Vito Focacceria

St. Vito Focacceria, the pizza pop-up that emerged during the pandemic to considerable buzz, plans to open its brick-and-mortar location in the Gulch on May 24.

State of play: St. Vito is the brainchild of chef Michael Hanna, who sold his pizzas out of a small kitchen in East Nashville and at the popular West Nashville bar and restaurant Hathorne before securing his permanent home.

  • Hanna specializes in a unique pizza style called sfincione (sven-CHONE-nay) style. (Think pan pizza with a decadent, fluffy crust.)

Details: Hanna tells Axios his approach to his new restaurant will be simple and pared down. St. Vito, located at 609 Overton St., will seat just 40 people in addition to a to-go counter.

  • The rotating menu will feature about three sfincione pizzas, three or four sides and a few classic Italian cocktails.
  • The wine list will be short and with nothing more than $100 for a bottle. "We're trying to keep it very dialed in," he says.

Yes, but: While Hanna's approach is simple, his path to a pared-down menu was the opposite.

  • Hanna says he "needed to try to be creative and fail in order to get to this point where I understand what I am as a chef."

What he's saying: "I matured as a human being and a person; I matured as a father and a son and a brother, all those good things throughout my life," Hanna says. "It's taught me how to be a little more focused and detailed with what I want to do."

  • "I [hadn't wanted] to do pizza because it's like, 'Oh, pizza's easy.' I went and cooked at fine dining places, I cooked at casual places. I got to see how other people thought. It eventually just led me back to this comfort food."

Flashback: Hanna's "aha!" moment came during the pandemic when he was reading "Made in Sicily" by Georgio Locatelli and discovered a section on the history of sfincione. Feeling anxious and isolated, Hanna was soul-searching for something to simplify his life.

  • "I couldn't work. I'm not a good person when I can't work with my hands. I get mean and I get frustrated and I get depressed. I need that part of my life. So I just started baking these pizzas. I decided I wanted something simple. I didn't want everything to be so damn complicated all the time."

Bottom line: The winning recipe at St. Vito is Hanna's obsession with making something perfect for every customer combined with the centuries-old simplicity of his approach.

  • "We're not doing anything that hasn't been done before. We're just trying to do it perfect every time."

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Nashville.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Nashville stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Nashville.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more