This story was written by The Ithaca Voice Intern Olivia Riggio.
ITHACA, N.Y. — Just a week after brothers Francesco and Salvatore Evola celebrated the opening of Franco’s Pizzeria, the small shop located next to Gimme! Coffee on West State Street is lively with customers.
“We’ve been trying to come here for a while, and finally this building was available and we went for it,” co-owner Franco Evola said. “We know Ithaca. We have a lot of friends: musicians, artists,”
The building Franco’s Pizzeria is located in used to be Felicia’s Atomic Lounge, which closed in Aug. 2015. When brothers Francesco and Salvatore Evola saw the location was for sale, they pursued the opportunity: they had a vision for their restaurant and worked hard to convert it from the bar it was previously to the pizzeria it is today.
“It was a place that had been the same for a long time, so it was hard work to bring it to this point, but we had a vision of what it would look (like)…and finally it was the light at the end of the tunnel. So, we came out with this and everybody loves it,” Franco Evola said.
The space is now casual and bright, with white walls that contrast black moulding, red seat cushions and wooden tables. The linoleum floor tiles resemble a black and white checkerboard and a colorful mural that says “Viva Italia” is displayed on the back wall.
The Evola brothers are both from Sicily, where their family owns a farm that produces lemons and olives.
They both live in the Finger Lakes area — Franco lives in Trumansburg and Salvatore in Elmira. They began their restaurant careers in New York. Salvatore has owned Gino’s, an Italian restaurant in Elmira, for 24 years, and Franco has owned Sicilia D’oro on Long Island for 20. They have also served their pizza at the annual Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival of Music & Dance, where they became regionally known for their slices.
They said they had been hoping to open a restaurant in Ithaca for some time, and were just waiting for property to become available.
“One day we decided to come here and check it out, and then we started in the Finger Lakes,” Franco Evola said. “We learned how to make pizza with, I would say, great pizza men … and we’ve been following the tradition.”
The brothers, whose shop already has a five-star Google review, said what they are doing is not necessarily unique, but that they have been involved in restaurant-owning in the area for many years and take pride in what they do.
“We treat the pizza like we are artisans,” Salvatore Evola said. “We’ve been doing it for a lot of years, we have some experience and we like to show what we can do.”
The brothers said they hope their restaurant will add to the array of businesses that line West State Street.
“I want to see everyone here come and enjoy the pizza,” Franco Evola said. “It’s a beautiful place.”
The Pizzeria serves pizza, stromboli, calzones, salads and soft drinks, and also allows customers to bring their own wine if they choose. There is casual seating both outside and inside. It’s open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day and located at 510 W. State St.
Photos by Jolene Almendarez/The Ithaca Voice