This summer, chef Kyle Jacovino, formerly of The Florence and 1540 Room, embarks on his first solo endeavor, Pizzeria Vittoria. The casual wood-fired pizza joint, one of his lifelong ambitions, is the only brick-and-mortar restaurant in Starland Yard, the new food truck park on De Soto Avenue. Here, Kyle talks pizza, Savannah’s food scene and doing his own thing. Interview by Ariel Felton
ON CALLING THE SHOTS
The atmosphere, the aesthetic, the location, the menu, the price points — everything about this new restaurant is something I love. It feels great to be making decisions, and I’m excited to share what I’ve been working on with the community. This place will be all me!
ON TAKING HITS
I knew I wanted to one day own my own pizzeria, and I was considering leaving for a bigger city when Starland Yard approached me. Those guys [Guy Davidson, Pila Sunderland and Niko Ormond] heard I was going to leave town, reached out to me and promised me my own space. I took a lot of hits in Savannah, but I have a vision. I stayed because I hadn’t done exactly what I wanted to do here. Now, I’m doing it my way.
ON SETTING A MOOD
The vibe of Pizzeria Vittoria is super casual. I know people have come to associate me with upscale dining, but this is a different atmosphere. It’s a small space, about 15 seats inside and 30 outside. I want it to feel like you’re in someone’s kitchen when you walk in — casual, intimate. I want to set a certain mood, but nothing too fancy. Like you’re at your neighbor’s house for dinner.
“Vittoria has followed me my whole life … a lot of full-circle moments. I just knew this was the right name for my first pizza joint.” – Kyle Jacovino
ON MELTING POTS
I know Savannah is a Southern town, with traditional Southern foods — and I love that. But I also think we have a lot more to offer. This town is a melting pot. I’m Italian, my girlfriend is from Venezuela, I work with Latinos. All of those cultures, and all of that food, are part of the South. The more culture that comes to the city, the better. Southern food can be anything: I can take okra and make an Italian dish, or throw it on a pizza. It’s about taking what you have, and making it yours.
Vittoria has followed me my whole life. It means “victory” in Italian. The Florence was on Victory Drive, and it was almost named “Vittoria.” I would love to have a daughter named Vittoria one day. One of my favorite winemakers is also in Vittoria, Italy. I could go on forever about it — a lot of full-circle moments. I knew this was the right name for my first pizza joint.
The Diavola pizza is definitely coming back — I know Johno [Morisano, owner of The Grey] will be happy about that. We’re also doing a signature menu item from The Florence called the Crudo. It was an all-white pie with prosciutto, topped with shaved Parmesan. I want to add a choose-your-own-salumi option to that as well. I’ll source out bresaola, coppa, and prosciutto, so the customer can switch it up. It comes out of the oven super hot, then we’ll finish it with arugula and shaved meats. So good!
I love Starland. It reminds me of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. To me, it’s more lively and honest than downtown — less tourist traps and more graffiti. It’s a very community-driven neighborhood. We have our own little square now, between Two Tides, Back in the Day Bakery, Starland Yard, Atlantic — it’s dope!
ON PROGRESSIVE FOOD
As the city of Savannah grows, it needs more progressive food options. I think The Florence was the first real example of that, and now the scene has really caught on. We’ve got chefs doing more experimental menus like Mashama Bailey at The Grey, the guys at Cotton & Rye, Prohibition — all of them are pushing the boundaries of Savannah’s culinary scene. It’s an exciting time for food here.
Ryan Smith (of Staplehouse and The Giving Kitchen) was the guy who brought me to Atlanta, and really honed my skills. He taught me about charcuterie and pasta-making and introduced me to the local food scene. I think he’s one of the best chefs in America, and he also introduced me to Hugh [Acheson]. A lot of people look at Hugh as just a chef, and he’s a great one, but he’s also an amazing leader who knows how to take care of his people. He’s really good at finding talented people and putting them in positions where they can shine, while also advancing their own careers. Before opening The Florence, Hugh took me to Italy, where I met another mentor, Walter Rampazzo, who ran a family-owned pizzeria. He was a tough teacher and wouldn’t accept anything that wasn’t perfect. Watching Walter balance his family and his work life was amazing. Sometimes as a chef, things get hectic and you let one side slip. Walter was closed two days a week — Sundays and Mondays were always for his family. I hope I’m able to maintain that balance, too.
I’d like to be known as a chef who not only worked hard, but also really cared about his city, his farmers and his producers. I’ve fallen in love with Savannah and the South in general. Without the local mills and farmers, I wouldn’t be able to do this. It’s important for me to acknowledge and honor the people who help me get where I am today.