St. Vito seeks to keep it simple
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."
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