Following the news that one local Italian restaurant, Bergamo’s, has closed after 20 years comes news that another is celebrating its double decade mark with an expansion. And it’s one that the naysayers were surmising wouldn’t make it to its first anniversary because it started too expansive.
Antonio’s La Fiamma is undergoing construction that will increase the size of the upstairs bar area and add a balcony overlooking Lake Lilly. When it opened, in 1990, industry insiders were whispering about the folly of owner Greg Gentile. Gentile had taken a one-story steakhouse and added a second level, an expensive renovation that most said could not be profitable unless the restaurant was always full. Everyone thought Gentile was nuts. The downstairs became a market and deli and the upstairs was a full-service Italian restaurant. The fact that it had something for everyone meant that more people were likely to dine there, whether they wanted something casual or a more formal meal. The restaurant was always full. And Gentile also instituted a policy that allowed folks eating in the deli area to purchase a bottle of wine from the market and enjoy it with no corkage fee. He sold a lot of wine.
And he showed the naysayers a thing or two. Success is always a satisfying revenge.
So then, about the addition...how many seats will he add? Zero. That’s right, he’s going to the trouble and expense to add a balcony with no net gain in seating, also known in the business as how you make money. Gentile’s response: “We’re just going to make the seats we’ve already got better.”
I’d say the man is nuts, but I know better.
Gentile hopes to have the new space open the first week of December.