BRADENTON -- Paul Amato's wife believes that "crazy Italian love" prompted her husband to get back into the restaurant business after starting and moving on from five other Italian restaurants.
He acknowledges it's his love of food and family that led him to create and open Pizza by the Foot, 6103 14th Street West Bradenton.
Fresh plum tomatoes, lighter pizza dough and special buffalo mozzarella cheese are the key ingredients to Amato's homemade pizzas. His recipe and the concept for the restaurant come from his Sicilian background. He uses his mother's recipes and has handed those recipes down to his own children.
Part of the reason he started this latest venture is so that he can pass it on to his children.
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"I plan on taking after my dad in the restaurant business and I want to keep his name alive even after he retires," said Amato's son, Christopher Amato.
Amato started in the restaurant business in New York in 1967 and opened his first restaurant on Bradenton Beach in 1980.
As a native Sicilian, Amato missed being around the ocean and craved the smell of fresh seafood.
"When I came down for vacation to Florida, I fell in love with the state because it is similar to my hometown of Sicily," Amato said. "So I decided to move here and eventually opened my first restaurant at Bradenton Beach in 1980."
He started well-known restaurants such as Oma's Pizza, Siciliano's, La Tratoria, Bella Mia Pizza, and Bella Mia Grill, but has moved on from those. His new focus is his Pizza by the Foot.
Pizza by the Foot opened May 1, but he already has plans for another restaurant in Palmetto and five franchises in the area.
"I will be spending most of my time at the Bradenton location but I am working on opening another Pizza by the Foot in Palmetto," Amato said.
The concept of the restaurant and prices will be the same at both locations. The Palmetto restaurant can sit 50 to 60 people compared to the maximum capacity of 30 people at 14th Street West.
The grueling hours and crazy schedule of the restaurant business didn't deter him, even after nearly 50 years in the industry.
"My love for what I'm doing is what keeps me going," Amato said.
The concept for Pizza by the Foot comes from his Sicilian background.
"I took the concept for my pizzas from how pizza is served in my hometown Sicily," Amato said. "In Sicily they sell their pizzas by the foot so when you order you ask for 1, 2, 3, 4, or even 5 feet of pizza."
Amato wanted to create a restaurant with good food and affordable prices.
"People that come here know that I use fresh ingredients but I decided to keep my prices low for the people because I want everyone to be able to enjoy my foods," Amato said.
All of his traditional dishes such as pastas, salads, calzone, stramboli, and one foot of pizza start at $7.77. There will be additional charges for extra toppings on any dish. Amato uses lighter dough for his square-shaped pizzas.
"I love the concept of the restaurant and I would like to continue in the restaurant business by someday opening my own restaurant under the same concept my dad has created for Pizza by the Foot," said Amato's daughter, Laura Hall.
Amato's next project for the restaurant is to offer delivery as well. For now, costumers can enjoy dining in or taking out.