Many loyal restaurant diners of St. Vito Focacceria first found chef and owner Michael Hanna as he served his Sfincione pizza and Sicilian street food in pop-ups from both East and West Nashville spots. Before then, Michael catered food from his home as a way to support his family through the COVID-19 pandemic. After five years of perfecting his distinctive recipes, this May he opened his street-side eatery in the Gulch at 605 Mansion St.
At the cozy new spot, many food enthusiasts clamor for his Sfincione Sicilian-style creations that differ from typical American pizza by being coated with a layer of crisp breadcrumbs. Michael says his Sfincione dough is 100 percent hydrated, naturally leavened and fermented through a long, cold bulk method.
"I incorporate fontina, and sometimes smoked mozzarella, cheese into the dough before it bakes, resulting in comforting mouthfuls, bite by bite," he says. "The dough is cheesy star-studded, so to speak, and tastes like a Northeast tomato bread and then something Sicilian.”
This chef says he enjoys using simple ingredients and a sourdough base while tapping into his Sicilian heritage to make food inspired by what the nuns of the monastery of San Vito served on the streets of Sicily more than 700 years ago.
His menu includes rotating dishes and desserts such as tiramisu, meringue pie and gelato. At press time, pizzas (by the slice or whole) ranged from the Classic Vito with milled tomato and oregano; the Potato including potato cream, roasted potato and lemon; the Pepperoni highlighting Fripper's pepperoni, chili flakes and agrodolce; The Spicy Tomato & Burrata having giardiniera and fresh basil; and the Porchetta including broccoli rabe, basil and mustard sabayon.
St. Vito's chopped romaine salads sport Genoa salami. A roasted peppers dish is tossed with orange, lemon and herbs. Meatballs are served in a vodka sauce with garlic bread and Pecorino Romano cheese.
Examples of other special dishes may include carciofi alla giudia (fried artichokes), wine syrup-cured beets and pistachio salad (a staple from Michael's pop-up offerings), plus hand-rolled pasta specials.
Beverages include wines from Italy, France, Oregon and California; beers from Italy, Germany, Wisconsin and Florida; as well as innovative cocktails, such as the 'Naked & Famous,' with Mezcal, Aperol, yellow watermelon and smoky salt
Born in the Memphis area to a family with Sicilian heritage, combined with spending time as a child on a farm in Arkansas, Michael says his inspiration definitely comes from both Sicilian and Southern cuisine.
"St. Vito began as an idea to do something familiar for everyone, but creative and different enough to keep people on their toes. It's not just about the pizza, or Sfincione style. It's about everyday ingredients that are sometimes overlooked, and presenting them to everyone in new ways," explains Michael.
While he says the restaurant is unable to accommodate parties larger than six in the dining room, they have some options for those wishing to host an event or celebration in the space. "We also have options for larger takeout orders."
Limited reservations can be made online.
St. Vito Hours of Operation:
- Wednesdays through Sundays 5-10 p.m.
- Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
(text line only) 615.880.6561
St. Vito Focacceria is now anchored in the Gulch via the prior location for Colt’s Chocolates. The space now boasts a walnut bar, open kitchen and distinctive decor designed by architecture firm Powell Nashville.