A recently opened Italian restaurant in Port Chester with a two-century-long legacy is giving hungry diners a new reason to say “that’s amore.”
Brandi Trattoria & Pizzeria opened the doors of its 4,500-square foot restaurant in May and offers an array of Italian favorites, from penne alla vodka to pasta cartoccio. The sleek 200-seat eatery at 108 Abendroth Ave. features an outdoor seating area and a full-service bar that spans the length of the restaurant. Brandi also houses an 80-seat private dining space complete with a trio of large-screen televisions.
While the Port Chester location may be new, Brandi has a long history of serving hungry restaurant-goers. The company traces its roots to a small storefront and pizzeria opened in Naples, Italy in 1760 that, though it has changed hands over the ensuing centuries, is still in operation today. The company also opened an outpost at one of the world’s largest shopping malls in Dubai.
Ray Payne, an executive working with Global Franchising Group LLC, a company in Westchester spearheading Brandi’s launch in the U.S., said he chose to work on Brandi’s stateside expansion because of a desire to bring a historic, famed brand to the U.S.
“The history and lineage allowed us a solid platform to build on and create a franchise concept here in the United States that we felt would resonate with our customers seeking true authenticity.” Some slight changes were made to modernize the concept in terms of design and the restaurant’s menu, he added.
That menu includes a dozen types of pizza, all baked in a blue-and-white tiled stone oven identical to the one that sits in the corner of the Naples eatery today. The restaurant’s pizza offerings cover everything from the classic napoletana to pizza bianca, which features fresh mozzarella, candied pistachios and a light truffle honey drizzle.
But if there’s one item that distinguishes Brandi from the dozens of other pizza joints in the area, it’s the Margherita. Brandi’s signature dish, the Margherita is served with a sweet red sauce, dollops of mozzarella and a smattering of basil leaves.
There’s a good reason why Brandi’s Margherita stands out among the crowd. The Naples restaurant credits itself as the original creator of the now-famous pizza style, claiming the dish was whipped up more than 100 years ago for Italian monarch Queen Margherita of Savoy.
It was that unique history that first caught Payne’s attention, and it’s that story that he hopes will help spur the restaurant’s growth in the U.S.
“When we put together the investor group to build Brandi, we were very adept at being the mortar between the bricks,” said Payne, who previously served as CEO and partner at Uncle Louie G, a Brooklyn-based ice cream and Italian ices chain that he helped grow into a franchise of more than 50 stores. “Most people don’t know how to strategically put together all of the bricks in order to build sustainable, profitable concepts.”
Choosing Port Chester for Brandi’s first location in the U.S. seemed to make perfect sense to Payne and the restaurant’s investors. “The location had a history of housing Italian restaurants so we felt it was a natural fit to continue to offer the same type of cuisines,” he said. Port Chester proclaims itself the “restaurant capital of Westchester County.”
The restaurant also offered an opportunity for the group to open a second, more casual eatery in the same space. Connected to the rear of Brandi Trattoria and occupying a storefront at 23 N. Main St. is Brandi Pizzeria, a 14-seat, quick-serve takeout and dine-in location set to open later this summer.
Payne said the village of Port Chester continues to show a commitment to growth both “in terms of the community and infrastructure.”
“We had looked at several locations in Greenwich, however the economics just made sense (in Port Chester) in terms of the attractive occupancy costs in relation to our projections,” he said.
Though the Port Chester restaurant has been open only a few weeks, Payne said Global Franchising is already looking to expand the brand in the area. “We are looking at a 2,500-square-foot location in Eastchester,” he said.
The Port Chester restaurant will serve as the flagship for Global Franchising’s other Brandi locations across the region and as a blueprint for any franchisee who may be interested in opening their own storefront.
Though the restaurant sits in a bustling section of downtown Port Chester, Payne said the biggest challenge in opening Brandi has been marketing.
“The restaurant space is inherently crowded in that it is always a challenge to drive initial traffic to a new location and then sustaining that traffic in repeat customers,” he said.