St. John’s-based pizzeria Piatto is opening two new locations this year, giving it a presence in all the Atlantic Provinces.
Piatto opened its first restaurant on Duckworth Street in late 2010, added a Halifax spot in the summer of 2012, and will be opening locations in Moncton, N.B., and Charlottetown, P.E.I., in June. A fifth location is planned for Dartmouth, N.S., next year.
Owner Brian Vallis said he’s excited about the new spots.
“We’re not franchising. (Charlottetown will have an operating partner in there who will be responsible for managing the location, and will start off with a small percentage of ownership and will have the opportunity to buy a larger percentage,” he said.
The Moncton operation will be run by another of Vallis’s children, John; daughters Kate and Jay look after St. John’s and Halifax operations, respectively.
Vallis said both new locations will work to obtain their certification from the Italian Associazone Verace Pizza Napoletana, which inspects and recognizes restaurants that serve pizza made by traditional Neapolitan standards. Piatto’s two current locations earned the distinction — the St. John’s location was the second restaurant in Canada to do so.
“I’d love to say it transfers from one location to another, but the Italians just don’t function that way,” said Brian Vallis, laughing.
“They like the formal process of certification, so they all come up and we’ll go through the whole process again and we’ll demonstrate that we have the right mixture that doesn’t overheat our dough, that we use San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fresh yeast, sea salt, fresh basil and that we only stretch on marble and we cook in 90 seconds. They’ll time all that, and after three or four hours of watching us perform, they’ll say if we’ve done it right or not. We’ll certify all our restaurants.”
Vallis said the rapid growth of his operation was the plan from the beginning.
“It started first with Kate and I bouncing the idea around,” he said. “We always said it’d be multiple locations, but we didn’t want to go down the franchise route. We want it owner-operated in every location, and wanted to be more like a family restaurant rather than a franchise chain.”
Vallis said the family will have to decide whether they expand beyond five locations.
“Our game plan was to get to five, and then we’re going to stop and take a breather and see how happy we are with that, and then we’ll decide if we’re going to do another five,” he said.
“Five’s kind of the breathing point for us. We’ll stop and take a look and see what kind of economies of scale we’ve developed, see what kind of internal controls we have on the financial end through having five. Then we’ll look and say, ‘Do we think this model’s strong enough to roll to 10 or 15?’”