Respinto family opens second Homewood restaurant, Pizzeria GM. By Jan Walsh
Giani, Marco, and their father, Giovanni Respinto are opening their second Homewood restaurant. Pizzeria GM is located at 600 Oak Grove Road. The family is building on its success as it also owns and operates GianMarco’s Restaurant and GianMarco’s Wine on Broadway.
Pizzeria GM’s ambiance is both pristine and roughhewn. Notes of white, black, and silver define the interior space, warmed by wooden table and bar tops, which seat 84 people inside. It also boasts an open kitchen. Here white subway tile and metal ceiling envelop the enormous, wood burning, stainless pizza oven. The restaurant also includes a chef’s counter, separate bar, big screen televisions, and a spacious patio. Seating an additional 50-60 outside. And the restaurant is kid and dog friendly for the well behaved.
Tonight, we are here for the preopening friends and family dinner. The Respintos graciously host guests to order anything on the menu. All menu items are $15 or less. There is a wine list of draft wines that are available by the glass, half carafe, or carafe and separate selection of wines by the bottle. And on the beer menu, we are delighted to see one of our favorite beers, Blackberry Farm Brewery’s Sasion. We pair glasses of this beautiful brew with Roasted Chicken Wings and Hot Gulf Crab and Spinach Dip, from the antipasta selections. The golden wings are glazed in balsamic honey and chili, sweet and tender in each succulent bite and are accompanied by a tasty, tangy blue cheese spread. The dip is served in a large, black, cast iron skillet accompanied by large garlic toasts. We slather this piping hot, creamy dipfilled with jumbo lump crab and spinachonto the divine garlic bread.
It is heavenly and a newfound favorite on first bite. Doubting I will ever be able to come here again without ordering itI declare it this week’s “Food Find” on the spot. The menu also includes selections of salumi and cheese, salads, sandwiches, pastas, as well as dessert. But we forgo those and order from the pizza selections, the Chicken Parmesan. Yet we make it our own with Kev’s half to include house-made Italian sausage, taking advantage of their option of “Build Your Own: If we’ve got it, you can have it.”. The hand tossed pizza is thick and crisp along the edges and a thinner center, true to its NY style. Thick tomato sauce, melted Mozzarella, chicken (or sausage) meld in every comforting, cheesy bite. We both agree that we have never had a better pizza. And we have never seen a preopening event come across more seamlessly. From food to service, it is a perfect night.
It is delightful to watch Mr. Respinto beaming with pride as he goes table to table visiting with friends and family. Saying to him, “And just think, you started it all in New York,” his grin only gets wider. I capture this moment by taking his picture in front of their signage, tribute to his original Rocco Restaurant in New York. Visiting with him, Giani, and Marco I get a feeling of déjà vu, remembering all the years of reviews I have done at GianMarco’s, cooking segments with Giani, and far more meals than I can recall enjoying with these guys. Returning home I found my first review of GianMarco’s from 2006, which tells what brought them here to Homewood. I share their journey (again) here…
Giani and Marco were born into their father's restaurant in Greenwich Village-Rocco's. "We grew up running around the tables. By the time we were seven-years-old, we were in the kitchen helping butcher legs of veal with the chefs. And we continued working in the restaurant until we grew up," Marco recalls.
Although the two dreamed of owning their own restaurant, eventually their culinary careers took them in different directions. Meanwhile, Giovanni made a move of his own. "At age 58, I said, 'that's it! I'm retiring.' And I moved to Pompano Beach," he says. Giovanni's sons later followed him to Florida, Marco as the chef of a catering company and Giani as the managing partner of a restaurant company.
Giani's position brought him to Birmingham to oversee the opening of East City Grill at Brookwood Village. And he decided it was here that he would stay. "I fell in love with Birmingham and never left," he says. "I called my brother and asked him to come visit." Marco also loved the city, so Giovanni was then invited to visit too. "My dad was turning into a raisin in Florida, so I thought we could put him back to work."
"After 10 years in Florida I was going out of my mind. So I came to Birmingham, and said, 'this is good. This is a place to start a business.' Then I moved here, and put all my savings in the new restaurant," Giovanni says. "Now at 72-years-old, I never felt so good. "Sometimes we step on each other's toes. I stick my nose in their business, or they stick their nose in mine. But at the end of the evening we open a bottle of wine, and everything is fine."
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