Fans of Tony’s Pizza Napoletana can now have chef Tony Gemignani’s fresh Italian food at home, and not just by ordering takeout. His retail store, Giovanni Italian Specialties, in North Beach now sells fresh pasta, sauces, focaccia, and specialty cooking implements. The store, named for the chef’s three-year-old son, recently celebrated its grand opening, not a moment too soon for holiday shopping and Italian feast-creating.
So far, the biggest customer for Giovanni’s is Gemignani himself. He’s moved all pasta production from his restaurants to the shop, which makes about 150 pounds of pasta per day with three extruders going “pretty much on round the clock, 7 days a week, 8 hours a day.” Gemignani also makes pasta for China Live, the nearby Chinatown restaurant, and for patrons who want fresh pasta to go. Along with sauces and meatballs, those have been the food store’s hottest items in its first few weeks of soft-opening mode.
Beyond prepared food to-go or to cook at home, Gemignani’s shop is stocked with specialty cooking tools, many geared toward (obviously) pizza. “You want a Detroit pan, or a Chicago deep dish pan, we have that, and pizza ingredients,” Gemignani says. “It’s your one-stop shop.” He’s also got books on making pizza — “and not just mine,” the chef hastens to add, “but books on pizza history, and books from other restaurants.”
At a time when longtime North Beach food businesses like Caffe Roma have closed or struggle to remain open, Gemignani has been celebrated by neighborhood locals for bringing back a bit of old North Beach.
“That’s been nice to hear,” the chef says. “People say, ‘30 years ago there were places like this all over North Beach.’” Now, thanks to Giovanni, there’s one more.