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It’s back — Little Italy brings its pizza to new Hall County location
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Ben Cortese, owner of Little Italy Pizzeria in Oakwood, tosses pizza dough in preparation for his grand opening on Monday, Nov. 4. - photo by Kelsey Podo

Little Italy Pizzeria is coming out of its year-long hibernation in Hall County.

The restaurant was located in Gainesville at what is now Sliced until its sudden closing in August 2018. Now, it’s opening in the Oakwood Plaza off of Atlanta Highway, with a grand opening set for 11 a.m. Monday, Nov. 4.

After spending decades cooking with his father Peppino, who founded Little Italy, Ben Cortese said he wanted to pave his own path.

Cortese, the owner of Little Italy in Oakwood, sought ways to set himself apart from not only his father’s Little Italy businesses but other pizzerias in Northeast Georgia. 

“With 38 years of cooking, you don’t want to be average anymore,” Cortese said. “I can’t call myself the king of pizza if I really don’t strive to be top-notch. Everything from the glass, all the custom-made tables, the atmosphere and the ingredients, I wanted it to be something different.”

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About a year after closing the Little Italy Pizzeria in Gainesville, Ben Cortese is reopening his business in Oakwood. - photo by Kelsey Podo

On Monday, Cortese’s vision will come to life. 

When people sit down for lunch or dinner at his restaurant, they’ll see Cortese throwing pizza dough and Franko Digiulio sauteing bright and savory dishes over a flame. 

The 2,160-square-foot room is divided by a long glass barrier. One side accommodates up to 80 customers and the other holds the kitchen. 

Cortese said he decided to expose the kitchen to build a bridge between the cooks and the guests. 

“I’m not the kind of guy that likes to be stuck in a kitchen and just do my thing,” he said. “I want to interact with everyone. You’re confident by seeing who makes your food, and it’s also a part of the atmosphere.”

Digiulio, Little Italy’s chef, said he came out of retirement to join Cortese’s team. He has 35 years of experience in the hospitality industry and spent a lot of time working in seafood and Italian restaurants.

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Franko Digiulio, chef at Little Italy Pizzeria in Oakwood, plates chicken piccata on Saturday, Nov. 2. - photo by Kelsey Podo
Little Italy Pizzeria grand opening

When: 11 a.m. Monday, Nov. 4

Where: 3616 Atlanta Highway, Oakwood

More info: 678-971-5295

“This man is giving me a chance to show my true colors in Italian cuisine,” Digiulio said. 

In addition to Little Italy’s classic pizza, Digiulio said people can expect signature dishes like muscles and clams in marinara, chicken piccata and chicken marsala. 

At the moment, Little Italy will not offer delivery service. 

Even with the many pizza places in Hall County, Cortese said he feels confident Little Italy brings something special to the table. 

“Our ingredients make us stand out,” he said. “We’re not going to cut corners with ingredients.These are the recipes that my dad has taught me in the restaurant business, and we’re just getting better.”

Little Italy’s hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday; and 4-11 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call the restaurant at 678-971-5295.

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