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New pizza, wings joint coming to Atlanta Highway
Athens Amici Italian Cafe setting up in Gainesville, has eyes on Dahlonega
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Eli Bonilla, a kitchen manager at the new Amici restaurant, prepares slices of pizza in Gainesville on Friday. The restaurant is currently holding a soft opening with a ribbon cutting June 8 and a grand opening June 24. - photo by David Barnes

Amici Italian Cafe, a pizza place catering to the college crowd, is settling into Gainesville after slinging slices in seven other Georgia cities.

The restaurant has set a ribbon cutting with the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce for 4 p.m. on Thursday at its new space in the Chicopee Shopping Center on Atlanta Highway. Amici had a soft opening in early May and has planned a grand opening for June 24.

With a menu focused on pizza and wings, but which also includes sandwiches, soups, salads, sides and pasta, the restaurant chain is well-suited to the college town.

Amici sports a few awards — most of them for its wings, which come bone-in and boneless and in X-Hot, XX-Hot, XXX-Hot, barbecue, lemon pepper and sweet chili.

Its pizza ranges from the familiar margherita to the funky muay Thai, which comes with grilled chicken, sweet Thai chili sauce, red onion, banana peppers, feta cheese and fresh cilantro.

The Gainesville menu will be similar to the other locations, but the location will have a few differences as the chain tries “to tailor each unit to fit into the personality of the local community,” said company founder Chris Torino in a Friday announcement.

Torino, now the executive vice president of brand development for Amici, got his start in 1993 in Athens near the University of Georgia. His father, Mike Torino, is now the CEO of the growing company that has locations in Athens, Milledgeville, Madison, Monroe, Lake Oconee, Covington and Conyers.

And the company just signed a franchise deal with Atlanta private investors Stonemont Financial Group to open 20 Amici locations throughout the Southeast, starting in Clemson.

Gainesville’s location near the local University of North Georgia campus is owned by the company, Mike Torino told the Times on Friday.

“We saw the college and that the college is expanding,” Torino said of the decision to open a restaurant in Gainesville. “We’ve had great success in college towns, and we liked the location. We thought this would be a nice place for our expansion.”

Company-owned stores also tend to be close to one another, Torino noted, so that quality and service can be ensured by its owners.

“It’s 58.4 miles from my house in Madison to Gainesville,” he said, laughing.

The Torino family has its eye on Dahlonega, the hub of the University of North Georgia, and Toccoa as possibilities for its next locations.

With all of its part-time employees, the local restaurant employs between 20 and 25 people, while the company as a whole — not including its franchises — has about 150 employees. The Gainesville location is managed by Mandy Reece.

“Amici” is the Italian word for friends.

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