The son of a well-known local restaurateur is branching off from the family’s main business in Chester to bring his take on Italian cuisine to the city.
Luca Amato is working to open Sapori in The City in a 1,500-square-foot of space at 2028 W. Cary St. in the Fan.
Amato is the son of Giuseppe and Angela Amato, and brother of Dario, who own Sapori Ristorante Italiano at 3513 Festival Park Plaza in Chester.
Sapori in Chester, which focuses on Sicilian dishes, has been consistently praised as one of the top restaurants in the region, including being named one of the top 25 restaurants in the area by Richmond Magazine in 2015.
“We have a great following in Chester,” Luca Amato said. “But for the concept that I wanted to bring, I felt that Richmond was a better fit.”
Robert Heim, a commercial broker with Bandazian & Company, represented Amato in the leasing deal, which closed last week. Marty Mooradian, a broker with Marcus & Millichap, helped with the deal by connecting Amato with Heim, who ultimately helped secure The Fan location.
The West Cary Street building was previously home to a tattoo parlor and was purchased last summer by local developers David Levine of Plus Properties, and A.J. Shriar and Ronnie Shriner. They renovated the building and added a from-scratch building next door to deliver a new restaurant space and several apartments.
The Amato family is pumping about $50,000 of its own capital to get the space ready for a first quarter 2017 opening, Amato said.
Before settling on the Fan, Amato said he looked at many locations and neighborhoods across the city, including Manchester, Church Hill and Carytown.
“I mean, look at this place,” he said, as throngs of people strolled by. “There is so much happening in the area, lots of residents that live in the neighborhood…this was the perfect place to open this type of restaurant, and I can’t wait to be a part of this community.”
Once open, Amato plans to have 50 seats in the restaurant, including patio seating along West Cary Street. A full bar will also be on the menu, including local beers on tap.
Amato, 27, said he wants to carry on his family’s culinary tradition by bringing the Sapori name and brand to Richmond, but plans to add his own flair and flavor to the dishes.
“It’s something that I’ve been working on for about a year and half now,” he said. “Sapori means flavor in Italian…so when you think of Richmond’s dining scene, there are so many different flavors with all the restaurants down here. I feel like now is the time for me to add to it.”
Under the tutelage of his father and mother, Amato said he is perfecting his menu to be a blend of dishes from around the world.
“I’m Italian,” Amato said. “That’s a given for some of the dishes, but I can also cook American and Filipino dishes, and incorporate some of those cuisines with Italian dishes at the restaurant.”
Born in Sicily, Amato immigrated with his family to the U.S. when he was 5. Before moving to Virginia to settle in Prince George County, Amato spent nine years growing up in Brooklyn.
That time in New York afforded Amato access to the smells and tastes of international dishes, helping spark his love for cooking.
“It was definitely a different take on cooking up there,” he said. “Growing up in Brooklyn you got to experience different types of food from all over the world because it was an international city…that’s the experience I want to bring to Richmond.”