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.