KENNESAW — Massimo Andreozzi brings the tastes of Naples, Italy to Kennesaw this week with the opening of Vesuvio Pizzeria Napoletana, a cozy downtown restaurant that features meats, cheeses and assorted ingredients imported from his native city near Mount Vesuvius.
“It has been a dream for many years to have my own place,” Massimo Andreozzi, 44, said. He’s a veteran of the restaurant business: he began working in kitchens when he was 19 and was the executive chef for Sotto Sotto and Fritti restaurants in Atlanta for the 10 years preceding the pandemic.
When COVID forced thousands of restaurants nationwide to close or downsize in 2020, Andreozzi’s job was among the casualties. A few days after losing his job, he and his wife Lindsay Andreozzi, noticed a for-rent sign in what had been a small Columbian restaurant next to a barber shop in downtown Kennesaw.
“We had driven past that place nearly every day. I had been thinking how much I would like to have my own restaurant, so when I lost my job and saw the sign, we decided to just do it, even as the pandemic made everything uncertain,” he said.
The process of remodeling and securing the necessary permits and licenses took far longer than anticipated, explained Lindsay Andreozzi, who teaches Spanish at St. Catherine of Siena School in Kennesaw and helps her husband in the restaurant.
“There was a lot that needed to be done in here, but 18 months later, we are finally ready to open,” she said.
‘Pizza and love’
Lindsay Andreozzi credits pizza for bringing them together 15 years ago.
“Ours is a pizza and love story,” she said. “I was in college and studying abroad in Spain when I took a side trip with a friend to Rome. I had just turned 21. We decided to eat at a small outdoor restaurant near the Pantheon, and I noticed Massimo making pizzas a few feet away,” she said. “He caught my eye and I caught his. He had such kind eyes and he was very funny. My friend and I hung out and ordered wine until Massimo got off of work. He had a friend who liked my friend, so the four of us just walked around Rome that evening and again the next night. And then I had to leave for Venice, but we stayed in contact.”
She returned to Rome a few weeks later to see him.
“He took me to Naples, where he grew up, and introduced me to his family,” she said. “It was incredible, like a movie. When I was growing up what I knew about Italian food was Chef Boyardee in a can and the Olive Garden!”
Massimo Andreozzi found a restaurant job making pizza near Barcelona, Spain to be closer to her and discovered she could get a job there as well. When her study abroad program ended, she decided to stay in Spain for the summer to work at the same restaurant.
“There was a bunch of us, living in a big house and working in the restaurant,” she said.
When she returned to college for senior year, Massimo Andreozzi came along.
“He could only stay for a few months at a time, but eventually he was able to get a fiancé visa,” she said.
They married a year later, relocated to Atlanta for his career, and now have three children. They settled in Kennesaw several years ago and consider it home.
“When we first met, I was fluent in Spanish but didn’t speak Italian. Massimo only spoke his native Italian, yet somehow we muddled through and were able to communicate,” she joked. “At home now we use a mix of Italian, Spanish and English, and our children are totally bilingual.”
Massimo is excited to share his culinary skills with Cobb County.
“For many years I worked for others maybe 10 hours a day. Now I will work 14 hours a day but it is for me. Opening Vesuvio is a dream come true. It was time to do something for myself,” he said.
“People always love the kind of pizza they grew up with,” Massimo Andreozzi said. “If you eat New York-style pizza all your life, that’s what you like. But Kennesaw is a perfect place to introduce Neapolitan pizza. It has its own style and is wonderfully fragrant. So many times, I eat pizza out, and it isn’t good. The meat is over-cooked and becomes greasy. Neapolitan pizza has the best fresh ingredients. It is cooked briefly at very high heat and is soft yet crunchy. You savor the flavor.”
Pizza Napoletana originated in Naples and is prepared with simple and fresh ingredients: a basic dough, raw tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil and olive oil. Dough is made with highly refined Italian wheat flour, fresh brewer’s yeast, water, and salt, and kneaded and formed by hand. The pizzas and sandwiches are baked in a custom-designed, handcrafted brick oven built in Naples.
The Vesuvio menu features a variety of appetizers, including buffalo mozzarella with Parma prosciutto, bruschetta con burrata, salads, sandwiches, as well as Bufalina, Pocellina, and Margherita red pizzas and Quattro, Formaggi and Tartufata white pizzas. Special to the menu are Vesuvio tomatoes: large, pointed cherry tomatoes that grow in the soil around Mount Vesuvius.
Massimo Andreozzi learned pizza-making from all the restaurants he’s worked at over the years, but his family has great cooks, too. He is a fabulous cook for many other Italian creations as well, Lindsay Andreozzi said. “Now Kennesaw and Cobb County can get a taste of Naples in person, and one day we hope to open a full Italian restaurant,” she said.
Vesuvio is at 2893 N. Main St. in Kennesaw and is open for dinner only for the first week, from 5 to 9 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 5 to 10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays and 5-9 p.m. Sundays. Hours will expand to include lunch in the coming week. For more information, call 770-702-8168 or visit www.vesuviokennesaw.com.