Those looking for authentic Italian food can get a slice of New York in downtown Cumming.
Last week, Sal’s Place, a local favorite for pizza and Italian food for more than 17 years, reopened under new owner Michael Fortunato after being closed for a few weeks for renovations and some other changes.
“We want to follow what [original owner Salvatore Salamone] did for 15 years,” Fortunato said. “We want to bring it back to that and even more. That’s the goal.”
Salamone sold the business in 2016 to Mehmel Olcal, who operated it until earlier this year before selling to Fortunato.
Fortunato, who was born in New York and grew up in Pennsylvania, brings more than 20 years of experience serving pizza in the Atlanta area – including operating Pizzeria Fortunato in Smyrna, which he said won best pizza in Atlanta for three-straight years.
“We try to make everything we can homemade. We make our own meatballs, we make our own sausage and we cut our own pepperoni,” Fortunato said, later adding, “We try to do the little things. It’s a little more work, but in the long run, it pays big. People appreciate it.”
He described his passion for Italian food as being “like a heartbeat” and said he wanted to bring the best possible food to Cumming.
“Friends come from New York, and they say, ‘This is the best pizza. This better than what we have,” Fortunato said. “To me, that tells me everything I need to know.”
The brief closing allowed the restaurant to install some new TVs and stereos, repaint and decorate the building and get staff ready for the new ownership, employees who Fortunato said had been great during the transition.
A new feature at the restaurant allows guests to sign a wall under the restaurant’s front counter, which has gained dozens of signatures and well-wishes in just over a week.
“As long as they’re happy and the food’s good, you’ve got a place,” Fortunato said. “You can’t ever think that you’re bigger than the customers or bigger than the place. It doesn’t work.”