While chef and restaurateur Anthony Scotto made his mark in New York by operating Fresco by Scotto in Midtown Manhattan for three decades, recently, he turned his sights on Nashville. After visiting the city for the past several years to visit their daughter in college, Scotto and his wife, Theresa, fell for Nashville’s charms and made the move, determined to bring good Italian food with them. First, they opened Luogo in November 2022 and most recently, Pelato, which just debuted on Aug. 25 in the city’s Germantown neighborhood.
“During our initial visits, and before officially deciding to relocate to Nashville, you could find us dining at casual and fine dining restaurants throughout the city as a family,” Scotto said. “Through these experiences, and from an overwhelming majority of the people we’ve spoken to, there was a definite need for quality Italian food in the city and throughout the region.”
While Luogo leans more upscale in design and menu, Pelato is a warehouse space turned old-school trattoria serving the dishes that Scotto grew up eating in Brooklyn. The 6,200 square foot restaurant seats 200 across the dining room and bar, plus another 40 on the outdoor patio. There’s also a private dining room. A photo wall displays pictures of the Scotto’s families from Brooklyn.
Photo credit: Freeman LaFleur
Pelato means “peeled tomato” in Italian and is a playful linguistic nod to Scotto’s bald head, but it’s also representative of the menu, which features traditional tomato-centric pastas, meat dishes, and shareable small plates.
Sample dishes include baked ricotta, stuffed mushrooms, chicken parmigiana, radiator alla vodka, fusilli al funghi misti (mixed mushrooms)and braised short ribs with tomato, oregano, cherry peppers, and white bean puree.
On Sundays, diners can order from the regular menu or partake in Sunday Supper, in which family-style pasta is served with a tomato-and-meat sauce that’s been cooking all day.
After establishing a foothold in the city with Luogo, Scotto has found a welcome audience in Nashville, which inspired him to open Pelato. But he acknowledges there’s a learning curve when opening a new business in a new place, and notes the significant difference in operating restaurants and serving Italian food in the South versus in New York.
“In New York, Italian food has been the mainstay cuisine for generations,” Scotto said. “In Nashville, historically speaking, there has been less exposure to Mediterranean and Italian cuisine. With that, comes difficulty in sourcing certain ingredients and staff who have a history of cooking our food.”
Scotto explained that Pelato’s concept is decidedly Brooklyn-Italian, pulling from Italy’s gastronomic and cultural roots while also featuring American ingredients and influences.
He calls Brooklyn-Italian classics a dying art, even in New York, where restaurants have been shifting away from the tradition. Because of this, many diners haven’t experienced this cuisine, so he feels pressure to do it justice and to represent his original home in his new hometown.
“Our culture is contagious, rooted in family, food, and tradition — ideas that everyone can embrace,” he said.
Scotto is busy with his two restaurants, but he said that as long as customers keep coming in the doors, he and his wife will continue to open more concepts. They’re content to keep Nashville as their home base, but Scotto said there are other communities in the South that could benefit by having a Luogo or a Pelato.
“The restaurant business is all I’ve ever done, and this isn’t a side gig or a hobby project,” he said. “If we do decide to open up more restaurants here locally, or throughout the region, you can rest assured that each and every location will be up to the standards I’ve maintained for the past 40 years. Not many people can say that they owned a successful restaurant in Midtown Manhattan for 30 years, and then open two separate concepts in a different state within a year.”