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INSIDE DISH: Ambrosia's Pizzi hits learning curve

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Inside Dish

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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  • opinion but wrong
    if you think this is a bad location then where is a good one? Centro is located within a 100' of 3 great restaurants which generates traffic. The video shows that the owner knows exactly what he did right and wrong and I agree with all he said - everythhing is more expensive downtown and he has learned this the hard way - day employees are hard to find and you have to pay them more - there is a cadre of employees that go from new opening to new opening that don't have the service attitude but survive on the "new" that can last 6-12 months before they have helped ruin the places reputation but they just move on to the next new and you are stuck rebuilding a rep & that cost time and money. I think they have the perfect concept at the perfect place and did it at the right time, he justs needs to do what he is good at and remember that good food & service work downtown just like they have in ripple.
  • Bad location
    Sad to say, but Ambrosia�s choice of location was very poor. That Maryland Street location has low visibility and little foot traffic. It has seen a number of tenants come and go since BW3 left five or so years ago. Notice that when BW3 came back downtown they choose a much higher traffic location.

    Ambrosia's made just as poor a choice as Vito's although it seems to me that Vito's had to fight two other issues both caused by the original tenant's poor decisions. First, The Cozy took WAY too much space. I suppose they thought their reputation would make them an instant hit with lines wrapping around the corner. Didn�t happen.

    Second, either due to poor planning or arrogance, The Cozy did nothing to the outside of the building. After dark it was never obvious there was a business of any kind in that building much less a restaurant. The outside of that building needed some sort of makeover such as Ram or the aforementioned BW3 did.

    Only one guy�s opinion who doesn�t have a business degree but did have a family who ran a small clothing store near Fort Wayne from 1910 until the mid-80s.

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