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Downtown Gainesville’s forthcoming Italian restaurant finally has a name
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The Gainesville Renaissance for the most part is completed Wednesday, May 15, 2022, in downtown Gainesville. Spaces on the street level for businesses have yet to have interiors finished. - photo by Scott Rogers

A forthcoming fixture for sophisticated cuisine in downtown Gainesville has a name at long last.

Announced in May, the high-end Italian restaurant owned by Fork U Concepts and chef Raffaele Crispino will bear the moniker “Cotto” when it opens at the Gainesville Renaissance development this winter.

“Short and sweet and obviously Italian,” the name Cotto translates to “cooked,” according to Fork U owner Alexis Kinsey, and denotes the introduction of “some more authentic Italian dishes into the area in addition to your classics that everybody loves.”

Cotto’s menu — as well as its design and architecture — is still under development, Kinsey told The Times July 6, but will boast traditional favorites with modern twists and a wide variety of wines and Italian-inspired cocktails.

“(Cotto) is going to be a mid- to high-level restaurant,” Kinsey said. “Hopefully it’s a place where people can have their celebrations and events — that’s one of the things we really want to push while we’re there.”

Kinsey and her husband, Scott, are set to launch Taqueria Tsunami at the Renaissance within the next two months, followed by Cotto in December.

Cotto is the Kinseys’ fifth restaurant concept, joining a repertoire of burgers, Spanish tapas, Neapolitan fare and Latin-Asian fusion.

“We’ve created every restaurant concept that we own, so we’re familiar with developing a brand and a concept and a menu,” Kinsey told The Times. “But it’s always fun when you have a new one to focus on, something different.”

Kinsey noted her husband’s culinary background includes working in Italian kitchens alongside Crispino.

“They go back a long time,” Alexis said.

Sharing “perpetual aspirations” of launching an outpost for Italian cuisine, Kinsey said the couple found a kindred spirit in the Renaissance’s owner, Doug Ivester. When the three began meeting two years ago, Kinsey said Ivester was “very adamant about having an Italian concept there (at the Renaissance) because of the need in the market.”

“From the initial concept to develop the fourth side of the square, it has been a major goal to bring a high-end Italian Restaurant to our unique building,” Ivester said in a statement. “Cotto fits the bill perfectly and we are excited to see that goal achieved.”

As Italian cuisine houses a surprising degree of diversity, Crispino said Cotto is poised to showcase the country’s very best to diners of Gainesville and Hall County.

“Each of the twenty Italian regions has a distinctive set of flavors, recipes, products and ingredients,” Crispino said in a statement. “In fact, the Italian regions were not officially united as a nation until the mid-19th century. Each individual region has retained much of its exclusive identity and we hope to showcase some of that here at Cotto.”