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Inside Bulloch Business with DeWayne Grice - Famous in Athens, Little Italy to open in Boro


July 12, 2016

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    Twenty five years after opening there, the owners of the small, family-owned pizza chain are coming to Statesboro.         Owner Frank Cortese recently acquired the parking lot between Waffle House and Yates-Astro Termite and Pest Control on South Main St. in the heart of the Blue Mile. The actual address is 450 South Main. It was owned by Randy Nessmith and used for overflow parking for R.J.'s Grill.
    Little Italy hopes to begin construction by the end of the month on a 3,000-square-foot restaurant, which will have approximately 70 seats inside and another 20 or so on a huge deck facing South Main. Their goal is to open in early 2017.
    In addition to great, authentic Italian and New York Style pizza, the menu will include other Italian favorites like subs, salads, lasagna, pasta, Calzones and Stromboli. 
    One of the keys to success other than great food are their late hours of operation and being open seven days per week. They will stay open to 3 a.m. every day and offer pizza by the slice, along with beer and wine.
    Frank's parents immigrated to America from Italy when they were kids. They came to Florida, then Atlanta and now Athens by way of New York.
    The Little Italy Pizzeria chain was started by Frank's father Joe and a partner in 1981 in Florida and then opened a second location on Marietta Street in downtown Atlanta. In 1991, Joe opened his third Little Italy restaurant in Athens and it became a huge success with UGA students and game day fans. 
    The Florida location has closed and they no longer own the Atlanta location, which is still in operation. However, they have expanded the family-owned chain with two restaurants in Athens and restaurants in Commerce, Winder, Monroe and Gainesville, Ga. They also own Little Italy's in Auburn and Tuscaloosa, Ala. 
    When the Statesboro location opens, it will be the ninth Little Italy Pizzeria owned and operated by the Cortese family. Joe is now retired, but son's Benny and Frank are actively involved in the business. Daniel Bathurst, who has worked in operations with Little Italy for the past 18 years, will relocate to Statesboro and serve as the managing partner here.
    "We have friends and loyal customers who went to school in Athens who are now in Statesboro begging us to come for years," Frank Cortese said. "We are excited about introducing the Eagle family to our family of great food. When the opportunity came available to purchase the land from Mr. Nessmith on the ‘Blue Mile' we decided this is an excellent location and great time to expand here. Even though the college community is a large part of our business, creating a family atmosphere is important also. My wife Corlnne and I are parents to Frank, Jr., who is 3. As the father of a small child, I want to make sure the community knows that this will be a family restaurant where everyone will be welcome."
    The continued growth of Georgia Southern University, Ogeechee Technical College and East Georgia College along with the strong industrial base are elements that attracted them to Statesboro. The Blue Mile project and the America's Best Communities exposure are exciting projects that helped elevate their decision to invest in Statesboro. 
    Organizers of the Blue Mile restoration have a goal of not only cleaning up our communities "front porch," but doing it in a way that helps create an entertainment and retail corridor that will give students a reason to explore downtown. 
    Hopefully, this is the beginning of many more new and exciting projects that not only will add to the success of the Blue Mile project, but also bring wonderful new opportunities for everyone in our community. 
    Track the restaurant's construction progress on Facebook at Little Italy Pizza Statesboro.

Please email DeWayne at dgrice@statesboroherald.com or give him a call at (912) 489-9499.


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