Jack Petronella and executive chef Coleman Jernigan have been working on the plan for the Northeastern-inspired Italian restaurant for the better part of three years, since the duo opened their Prytania Street coffee shop together in 2013.
The restaurant’s menu is largely inspired by Petronella’s childhood in New Jersey.
“I’m so excited about what we’re doing here,” Petronella said. “We did not reinvent the wheel, but this was about bringing the Northeastern feel that's in every Italian restaurant on every corner in New Jersey and New York.”
The restaurant’s retro-chic elegant design, which includes a baby grand piano for live music on Saturday nights and during Sunday brunch service, was designed with the 1950s and 1960s in mind. “(It) was an era when these Italian restaurants… were really fun and hot,” Petronella said.
Petronella named the restaurant after the hillside town his grandparents came from in Italy's Puglia region. Known for its robust wheat harvest, the area is famous for its pasta, which features prominently on the restaurant menu. It includes classics such as spaghetti and meatballs, baked macaroni, linguine in clam sauce, puttanesca and gnocchi Bolognese.
Spiedini mozzarella, a childhood favorite of Petronella’s, features bread wrapped around the soft cheese, fried and topped with anchovy and lemon caper sauce. There’s also the classic clams casino, garlic shrimp scampi, tortellini en brodo and a tri-color salad. A lengthy list of entrees includes Nantucket diver scallops with blood orange tarragon sauce and asparagus risotto, chicken and veal marsala served with hasselback potatoes and hearty classics including osso buco and veal scallopini saltimbocca.
Built in 1857, the sprawling white mansion was once owned by a cotton magnate, and was home to the American Red Cross during World War II, serving as a care facility for wounded soldiers from all over the South. Petronella plans to fully renovate the property over the next three years and turn it into a “chic and cosmopolitan” boutique hotel. Petronella currently oversees the property’s 14 rooms, which he says are already almost all booked through the winter holiday season.
For now, Altamura is offering happy hour beginning at 4 p.m. and dinner starts at 5 p.m. Monday and Wednesday through Saturday. Sunday brunch is served from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more information, visit the restaurant’s Facebook page here.