Giani Respinto and his brother, Marco were born into his 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 until they both moved to Florida, where their father, Giovanni had retired. In Florida Marco was the chef of a catering company, and Giani was the managing partner of a restaurant company. He helped start East City Grill's original, nationally acclaimed location in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with developer Innovative Food Group LLC, in which he later became a partner. He also expanded the high-end Grapevine cafe in Plantation, Fla., to include a gourmet restaurant, and worked at several other IFG holdings.
Giani's position brought him to Birmingham in 2001 to oversee the opening of East City Grill at Brookwood Village. "I fell in love with Birmingham and never left," Giani recalls. "I called my brother and asked him to come visit." Marco also loved the city, so Giovanni was then invited to visit too. Five years later, both Giani and Marco continue to satisfy Birmingham's appetite for upscale Italian cuisine.
Most recently Giani opened Pizzeria GM in Homewood.
Pizza and graffiti are both old school art forms expressions of creativity. The two together are the epitome of our childhood. Growing up in the Bronx during the 60s and 70s was rough and gritty, but full of culture and life. A pizza joint was as easy to spot as a graffiti adorned train or wall. This culture was mirrored in Naples, my father’s hometown. Naples is a gritty and colorful city, and the birthplace of pizza. My father brought this attitude with him when he immigrated. New York opened its arms to him when he opened Roccos. My brother and I were lucky enough to work side by side with him and learn a commitment to our community, customer service, and the importance of food quality. Rocco’s was a neighborhood spot we belonged to the neighborhood Just as GIANMARCOS is to Edgewood and Pizzeria GM is to West Homewood. My family just wants to keep old school alive for our customers history, culture, music, food quality, and service. We put our hearts and souls into our restaurants and people feel it hopefully you will feel it too.