Update, Aug. 26, 2019: Little Italy Pizzeria is still coming to Oakwood. According to Facebook, its planned to open sometime this fall, instead of its original anticipated opening of August.
About nine months after closing the Little Italy Pizzeria in Gainesville, Ben Cortese is ready for a fresh start in Oakwood.
In August he plans to resurrect the pizza loved by many in Hall County by opening a new Little Italy at 3616 Atlanta Highway.
“I want to bring them the best quality New York-Italian pizza in this part of Georgia,” Cortese said. “I'm going to honor my slogan — King of Pizza. We’re not cutting corners on ingredients.”
Although he owned the former Little Italy in Gainesville, Cortese said that it wasn’t entirely his own. His dad, Peppino, helped him open the restaurant.
After 17 years of running the business, Cortese felt the strong desire to start one from scratch, by his own means.
“This is my first store doing it alone, and it’s really not that hard,” Cortese said. “I love being a cook, but to build my own kitchen my way is like if you build your own house. I get to design the kitchen the way I know how I want to work.”
Once the renovations are done on the 2,160-square-foot building in Oakwood, Cortese said the project will amount to nearly $100,000. The restaurant will seat 60 people.
He expects it to be 90 percent similar to the old location in Gainesville. The changes include a couple of new ingredients, modern decor and massive Montague ovens.
Before, he said the restaurant used an oven with brick on the bottom. However, the Montague ovens contain brick on the top and sides, allowing for better insulation.
Because of the new equipment, Cortese said the cooking time for pizza will drop from 12 minutes to 9 minutes.
As for the style of the building, people can expect to see an updated look. A giant illuminated crown will act as the centerpiece for one of the walls, and people will be able to see the kitchen on the other side of a glass barrier.
“I want an old-school feel with a new trendy look,” Cortese said. “I want this to be a family place, No.1, but I definitely want people to be able to enjoy a nice glass of wine and rub elbows in here.”
Cortese hasn’t decided on offering pizza delivery, but people can expect the same fast and easy-going service.
“Pizza should be casual,” he said. “In and out in a New York minute — that’s how it should be.”