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New restaurant brings Italian food back to former Abondante space

Joe and Elizabeth D’arcangelo work behind the counter at their new restaurant Pizzeria Venti. Erin Plummer. (click for larger version)
July 14, 2010
MEREDITH — The taste of Italy is back at 30 Main Street with the opening of a new pizzeria that prides itself on its authentic Italian flavors.

Venti Pizzeria is now open in the former location of Abondante. Owners Joe and Elizabeth D'arcangelo oversee the restaurant, which promises authentic Italian cuisine at an affordable price.

The D'arcangelos are originally from Wakefield, Mass., and have resided in Meredith seasonally for the past eight years, owning a cottage on Lake Pemigewassett. Three years ago they started looking into opening their own business in town.

"We felt that Meredith was a lot of nice, friendly restaurants and there's a lot of fast food restaurants," Joe Darcangelo said. "We're trying to being the quality of the high-end restaurants at a more reasonable price."

On Jan. 1, Abondante Restaurant and Baking Company closed its doors, leaving an open space. As the D'arcangelos were looking into Italian cooking, Joe D'arcangelo said they saw the space as good for what they wanted to do.

The couple leased the space from the building's owner and started a franchise of the burgeoning Pizzeria Venti.

Pizzeria Venti is a "boutique franchise" of restaurants specializing in authentic Italian fare. The franchise aims for authentic Italian food, especially pizza and pasta, at a mid range price. There are around 14 franchises around the country with several more scheduled to open soon.

Neither of the D'arcangelos have had any culinary or restaurant experience, though both have business experience.

Joe D'arcangelo has done consulting work in the computer industry including work with clients in retail. He said he has managed up to 36 employees at different points for businesses worth millions of dollars.

Elizabeth D'arcangelo worked for a payroll company. She said the two especially wanted to be in business so they could spend more time together and it was the right time.

"(The) kids are all grown up, families of their own," she said.

The D'arcangelos went through Pizzeria Venti's training process to own a franchise. They began their training in Tuscany where they learned many of the restaurant's techniques. The training continued in Atlanta and in California, where the company operates its Pacific management.

The restaurant had a soft opening around a month ago. By the third Saturday, business doubled.

"The first month we really just wanted to get off the ground," Joe D'arcangelo said. "We've seen a week after week increases and we think that will carry through the summer."

After its first month in operation, Joe D'arcangelo said response thus far has positive. One customer from New York City said her husband would probably not like it, but she came back later saying her husband liked it.

"We had local folks back three of four times in one period," Joe D'arcangelo said.

The D'arcangelos said they plan to keep the restaurant open all year long. Ideas for future promotions include family nights and possibly wine tastings.

Both said they have a staff of wonderful employees ranging from college students to teachers who have the summer off.

Joe Darcangelo said he has heard comments about how many pizzerias are already in Meredith.

"Our pizza is authentic Italian," Joe D'arcangelo said.

Joe D'arcangelo said everything is made on site with top quality ingredients, including water from Tuscany. Joe D'arcangelo said this water is not chlorinated and has its own mineral flavor, which adds to the taste of the pasta and the pizza.

Joe D'arcangelo said running a restaurant requires much business experience, such as marketing, customer service, managing employees, and other duties.

"If you look at the franchisees, 12 out of the 14 didn't have restaurant experience," he said. "What they really had was business experience. Pizzeria Venti, they're looking for people who know how to run a business."

Joe D'arcangelo said one of his sons with experience in the restaurant business does help out.

The restaurant is now a full-time job for both of them. The couple still lives in Massachusetts but plans to move to Meredith permanently.

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