A space inside the Freight House marketplace near Davenport’s riverfront will soon offer something new: A taste of Antonella’s Ristorante & Pizza.
The Sicilian restaurant that has served pastas and pizzas in Davenport since 2002 is planning to open a second, more casual, location in the space formerly housed by the Quad-Cities Food Hub, which closed its doors in December.
The Davenport Riverfront Improvement Commission, which rents out the city-owned Freight House, discussed a lease agreement with Antonella’s during a Jan. 23 meeting.
The commission plans to approve the agreement at its next meeting, on Tuesday, Feb. 27, according to executive director Steve Ahrens.
The owners of Antonella's will then likely take possession of the 2,000 square foot space, about half of the main level that was formerly occupied by the Quad-Cities Food Hub, on March 1 with hopes of opening a quick service version of its restaurant, called Antonella’s 2, in time for opening day of the summer farmers market in late April.
Ahrens said the restaurant will complement the other neighboring establishments inside the Freight House, including Front Street Brewery and Fresh Deli.
"I think it's a perfect fit to offer this type of food service by an established restaurateur,” Ahrens said, adding that Antonella’s participated as a vendor at the farmers market for several years. “It will be well-received with what’s already there, especially since it’s a quick grab and go. People love that at the Freight House.”
Antonia Vitale, who owns Antonella’s and has grown up in the restaurant business, jumped at the opportunity to expand her business and accommodate customers who have a “fast-paced lifestyle.”
“People are always in a hurry,” she said. “We want to keep up with that.”
The new spot will offer a similar menu of house-made pizzas and pastas, but with speedier service.
The Antonella’s on West Third Street in downtown Davenport, which is typically more of a sit-down place, will remain open, Vitale said. The restaurant has been at that location since 2006, after originally opening on East Kimberly Road in 2002.
“We’re not at all moving this location,” Vitale said. “We want to stay here. We feel molded into the downtown.”
Vitale, who was born in Venezuela, began working at Italian eateries well before she opened Antonella’s with her business partner John Sgro. Her father Reno Vitale, who grew up in Sicily, Italy, has been making pizzas, as she says, “the right way,” since 1971, when he opened his first restaurant in Carlinville, Illinois. Vitale, known in his restaurants as “Papa Reno,” opened Salvatore’s in Muscatine in 1985.
“What we do is authentic Sicilian Italian and it’s very rare in the Quad-Cities,” she said.
And Vitale said longtime customers as well as first-timers have noticed.
“You know how people ask, ‘What’s good here?’ You don’t say that here,” she said. “You walk in and you say, ‘That smells so good.’”
Vitale’s motto for her restaurant used to be the “best kept secret in the Quad-Cities,” until then-President Barack Obama stopped by for lunch in 2012 after a campaign rally.
Now she also mentions this motto: “In this business, family is everything.”
Antonia Vitale certainly followed suit in the family business and she says her kids, Giovanni and Samanta Sgro, who are both 25, may do the same.
“They were born and raised doing this,” Vitale said. “We do everything as a family.”