Restaurants and Retail and Real Estate & Retail and Small Business and Inside Dish

INSIDE DISH: Ambrosia's Pizzi hits learning curve

May 21, 2010
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Welcome back to IBJ’s new video feature, “Inside Dish: the Business of Running Restaurants.”

Our subject this week is Ambrosia Centro, the new sister restaurant to Broad Ripple's venerable Italian eatery Ambrosia. Despite creating several other Italian spots in the Indianapolis area over the years, owner Gino Pizzi waited 30 years before adding another locale with the flagship "Ambrosia" imprimatur. He recruited eight investors, including several longtime Ambrosia patrons, to help bankroll Ambrosia Centro, which required $250,000 to $300,000 in startup capital.

Opening the new downtown locale wasn't as simple as copying and pasting the northside eatery into the ground floor of the Hampton Inn building at 15 E. Maryland St. Pizzi knew he wanted to pitch Ambrosia Centro as a more cosmopolitan restaurant to entice convention and business crowds. But he was surprised by several elements of doing business downtown. Unexpected expenses included hiring a company to handle valet parking. And he found that servers and other front-of-house employees accustomed to working downtown had a much more impersonal attitude than the gregarious and convivial staff in Broad Ripple.

"I don't do impersonal," said Pizzi, who asked employees to warm up. Much of the original front-of-house staff has since left the restaurant, the majority of them fired, he said.

Maybe the biggest surprise was the dearth of lunch business, leading Pizzi to drop daytime service in April and focus solely on dinner. In the video below, Pizzi discusses the decision to drop lunch, the higher costs of doing business downtown that forced him to raise prices, and how he's now trying to develop a critical mass of regulars who reside downtown.


 

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Ambrosia Centro
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15 E. Maryland St.
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(317) 635-3096
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www.ambrosiaitalian.com
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Concept: A slightly upscale and urbane version of venerable Broad Ripple Italian eatery Ambrosia, featuring many of the same menu items concocted from family recipes.
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Founded: October 2009
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Owner: Gino Pizzi
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Sales: Approx. $530,000-$600,000 for October-April; $1.2-$1.3 million projected for first full year.
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Start-up costs: $250,000-$300,000, covered by Pizzo and eight private investors.
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Chef: Oscar Perez
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Seating: 110
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Goals: To better connect with downtown residents to create more regular customers; to increase bookings for private events and large parties.
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Good to know: Pizzi founded the Ambrosia locale in Broad Ripple in 1979. Despite creating several other Italian restaurants in the indianapolis area since that time (including Mangia and Sangiovese Ristorante), Pizzi waited 30 years before creating another restaurant with the "Ambrosia" imprimatur.
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