Italian-American family opening another restaurant, ‘still making pizza on the Coast’

An Italian-American family that tried for years to buy an empty restaurant near home is preparing to open Antonio’s Pizzeria in Gautier.

Now the owners of that restaurant at 2120 Ladnier Road, just off U.S. 90, are renovating it inside and out, with “a sit down, homey feel,” said Antonio Palazzolo.

The hope to open in early June, he said.

They make their own pizza and spaghetti sauces that are as Italian as it gets, and their own pizza dough.

Palazzolo was born in Sicily and lived in Italy for the first 8-9 years of his life. Vito and Pina Palazzolo moved the family to Brooklyn for a couple of years and then settled in Northeast Pennsylvania for 8-9 years, where they bought their first pizza restaurant.

“We missed the warm weather,” Antonio said. Vacationing in the South, they found weather more comparable to Sicily on the Gulf Coast and a town like where they lived in Sicily, when they discovered Gautier.

“We fell in love with the Mississippi way of life,”he said.

The family introduced New York Pizza to South Mississippi when they opened their New York Pizza shop at the Singing River Mall in 1997, and “I’m still making pizza on the Coast,” he said.

He operates the New York Pizza that opened in 2016 at Edgewater Mall in Biloxi and his sister and brother-in-law the one at D’Iberville.

Italian and more on the menu

The new restaurant, which was a Pizza Hut in 1976 and most recently Roma Italian restaurant, will have seating for about 80 and an atmosphere that will make people feel like they are in an Italian kitchen, Palazzolo said.

The menu will feature traditional New York style pizza, pasta and other Italian favorites, along with specialties they picked up in the U.S., like Philly cheese steaks. The hoagie rolls for the cheesesteaks are made by a company in upstate New York, in business more than 150 years, and are shipped to them on the Coast, he said.

Customers will be able to order their cheesesteak with classic toppings of onions, peppers and mushrooms or “in the garden” with lettuce, onions and tomatoes.

Oven baked subs like chicken Parmesan and meatball will be on the menu. Among the authentic Italian dinners will be lasagna, fettuccine Alfredo and spaghetti and meatballs, and their own cannoli and tiramisu will be for dessert.

Palazzolo said he hopes to do a pizza of the month, like a fun ball park pizza topped with hot dogs and fries. The white pizza with spinach and tomatoes is a big seller in Biloxi, and the healthier ingredients are likely to be popular in Gautier, he said.

A choice location

The new restaurant has one of the best locations in the city — almost directly across the street from the entrance to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, a short distance from the new Sound Amphitheater and on the route many people take home from Ingalls Shipbuilding and Chevron.

In addition to dine-in will be take out for those who want to stop and pick up lunch or dinner and delivery through the app services. Antonio’s will be open from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and closed Sunday.

A New York Pizza restaurant located just a mile or so to the east of the new restaurant is not affiliated with him, Palazzolo said.

“I think there’s enough room for all of us to make a living,” he said.

Antonio told his wife Frances when they married he never wanted to live more than 10 minutes from his mom and her cooking. His wife tasted mom’s Italian specialties and they and his parents only live 5 minutes from each other, he said, and from their new restaurant.

His wife has become a part of the community, helping with the Mullet Festival and part of the Gautier Community Pride Organization.

“Gautier’s been good to me and my family,” he said, and by opening a restaurant where he lives, “I’m just coming back home.”