The Future of Zambri’s

photo: Rumon Carter, Artifact Imagery

The door to Zambri’s is wedged open with a stool, a tray of fresh linguine perched on top to dry. I’m a little early for my meeting with Jo Zambri, but Gina lets me in, and I sit down at a table, happy to observe the pre-lunch hour happenings. Louis Vacca is hard at work in the kitchen, putting the finishing touches on all his tempting offerings; eggplant parmigiana, sandwiches, and mixed vegetables in addition to the fresh linguine.

One of the servers comes in – it is her birthday today, and she notices the happy birthday message written on the blackboard. The chefs have bought her a bunch of flowers, which she admires before setting to work sweeping the floor and checking the tables to make sure they don’t wobble. Gina wipes the board clean, and starts writing in the day’s specials. I’ve almost forgotten that I’ve come here with a purpose other than simply to watch this lovely team in their happy interactions and preparations when Jo comes in and joins me at the table.

I’ve come to chat about the future of Zambri’s; specifically, the vision the owners have for their new location in the Atrium, set to open in August this year. Now included among the owners is sous-chef Louis Vacca, whom Jo calls away from the kitchen to come and meet me. When asked a few questions, Louis shies away, saying the focus should really be on Peter and Jo (the brother and sister team who opened the restaurant together.) “I just bought into something wonderful,” he explains, before returning to the kitchen. Jo elaborates, saying that their decision was not financially motivated. Rather, as the Zambris looked to the future, they felt it was a good time to include Louis, whom they have considered a part of the family for the past few years. The feeling is mutual – Louis returns from the kitchen a little later with a scrap of paper on which he’s scrawled a few notes for me. He’s written down what wonderful people the Zambris are – that Jo is like a sister to him, while he sees Peter as both a mentor and a close friend. He has also underlined words, emphasizing how “wonderful it is working with such amazing ingredients, local every day.”

Jo stresses that their focus now is on how to bridge the gap between the present location, and the new space down the street, which will boast eighty-five seats indoors, as well as an outdoor, south-facing patio and a patio inside the atrium. They are well-aware of their customers’ concern that the ambience may change, and while they know it can’t be the same, they are figuring out how to retain the spirit of the place that has become so well-loved by all who’ve eaten there.  Certain changes are anticipated; there will no longer be counter service for the lunch hour, but table service through lunch and dinner. They will keep longer hours, and pizza will also be added to the menu. But as to the spirit of the place, well, I can tell that it is the people who most definitely make this place, and there is no doubt that the welcoming, family atmosphere and the food that has made them famous will transfer without any difficulty to the Atrium. I’m looking forward to watching it happen.

Watch for the next episode of the Eat Out Loud podcast and Adrien Sala’s interview with Peter Zambri for more about the future of Zambri’s.

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