Two couples with pizza-making prowess open Da Vinci Pizza and Italian Eatery
The restaurant space at 505 Linden St. has housed a family-run pizza joint for decades. For more than 30 years, it was home to Sal’s Pizza, owned by Joe Amendola. Since his retirement, however, the business found new life under a different name and model thanks to local families with strong backgrounds in the pizza-making community.
Da Vinci Pizza and Italian Eatery represents a joint business effort by a pair of husband-and-wife teams: Frank and Maria Mazzone, former owners of Da Vinci’s by the Lake in Lake Winola, and David and Jane Gigliotti, who used to run Dino’s Pizzateria in Laurel Mall, Hazleton.
Longtime friends of the Amendolas, the couples stepped up to take over the downtown Scranton space, which reopened in November following eight months of renovations. Each couple had left the restaurant industry behind to focus more on family, but they saw the possibility to have it all if they worked together.
“They were always sniffing around for opportunity,” Mrs. Gigliotti said.
“We knew we could lean on each other and have some sense of a life. It was seamless in that respect.”
The wives help with customers at the counter and community outreach, while the husbands work as not only the pizza-makers but also resident handymen. (Mr. Gigliotti, a native of Calabria, Italy, and son of a mason, has cooking “in his blood,” his wife said.) Sons in both families work at the restaurant alongside their parents.
The couples kept the name the Mazzones built up in Lake Winola because of its “impeccable reputation,” Mrs. Gigliotti said, and they brought in all their own recipes to differentiate themselves from Sal’s. The restaurant received a complete makeover, which uncovered tin ceilings and included updated stainless-steel ovens, new granite counters, freshly tiled floors, and scrubbed and newly stained wainscoting.
The previous incarnation packed in tables like sardines, Mrs. Gigliotti said, but the new layout spreads the tables and booths in a way that comfortably seats just over 50 people. Making the dining area more appealing and family-friendly was crucial, she noted.
“The one challenge we have is that, because it was not that before,” Mrs. Gigliotti said. “We want to get to the point where we’re a thought in your mind when you think of where to go with the kids.”
The front of house includes a long counter where each variety of pizza, calzone and stromboli is visible, making the choice easier for customers.
“Lunches are our forte. We have to be quick; that’s why we do the large display case,” Mrs. Gigliotti said. “People are grateful for a quick lunch downtown. The best part was that after three days, I knew people by their first names. We have true regulars, and if they’re not here every day, they come in two or three times a week.”
Mrs. Gigliotti described the standard Da Vinci tray as a good, New York-style round, though the restaurant also makes Sicilian and specialty pizzas.
“People go crazy for the Grandma, which is a square with garlicky marinara and splotches of mozzarella,” she said. “The Marinara is just all sauce with Romano cheese, and it’s a fan favorite. And our stromboli is the best I think you’re going to taste.”
Da Vinci also offers hot and cold hoagies, regular and boneless wings, plus salads and sides, all made with dressings from scratch and fresh dough. Mrs. Gigliotti highly recommends the Caesar dressing, a coveted family recipe.
Food is available for dine-in or takeout, and downtown delivery is now an option. The owners bought a liquor license and expect to begin offering beer and cocktails in the near future, Mrs. Gigliotti said.
The positive feedback and upward swing of incoming traffic is only the beginning for Da Vinci, which seems to have filled the pizza niche vacated by its predecessor.
“I love that the two families have joined forces,” Mrs. Gigliotti said. “The conversation happened on a back porch and came to fruition. It truly came to life through us together as a team.”