Amici restaurant owner Carlo Gaione didn’t have much of a break.
The owner of the restaurant that stood at 3343 W. Cary St. in Carytown for 26 years intended to take a couple of months off — traveling and relaxing for the first time in decades — before considering his next move, which may or may not have included a new home for his beloved Italian eatery.
But opportunity knocked and he and his wife, Lena VanDevander, knew that they had to respond.
“It was one of those opportunities,” Gaione said. “It was too good to refuse.”
Gaione and business partner Antonio Capece opened Amici restaurant in 1991, but decades of a changing Richmond dining scene and the Carytown district took its toll, and on Dec. 16, Gaione closed up shop, having sold his building to Carytown Optical Shoppe.
“I tried to adapt, but what could you do?” he said in December. “There are too many restaurants and not enough people.”
Gaione and VanDevan-der spent about a month closing down Amici before Gaione embarked on a brief culinary tour of Philadelphia and D.C., then the two went on a much-needed vacation. In late January, the pair spotted a news item in The Times-Dispatch: Enzo’s Italian Chophouse in Manakin-Sabot was closing after 24 years and its owner, Doug Elliott, was looking for a new tenant to take over the space.
They made the call.
“We had a really good feeling about Enzo’s and Doug, “ VanDevander said.
They officially finalized the lease May 11, and now the two are painting and sprucing up the restaurant, which will be called Amici di Enzo. “It means friends of Enzo,” VanDevander said.
“We’re calling it a marriage of Amici and Enzo’s,” Gaione said. “Two landmark restaurants that are now together as one.”
Amici di Enzo will blend the best of both restaurants — Amici’s traditional Italian fare, plus the pizza and steaks that were popular at Enzo’s. They also plan to add a kids menu — and continue Enzo’s tradition of live music. In fact, Enzo’s former owner will continue to lead the music program for six months to give Gaione and VanDevander a chance to learn the ropes — and keep the regulars happy.
Happy hour will launch in the new space — which has 100 seats inside and another 100 on the patio — and a few of Enzo’s bartenders will be coming back. The restaurant also has a parking lot, something Gaione said was important to his Amici regulars.
“I love it up here [in Goochland],” Gaione said. “A lot of customers I had at Amici had come from up here, and I’ve seen a lot of familiar faces. Everywhere we turn, people are so excited for this restaurant.”
Amici di Enzo could open as early as mid-June and will launch with dinner hours until the fall, when the couple plans to add lunch service.