A new and improved Gia Pronto will be opening today, just a few spaces down from the original store.
While the new Gia Pronto was supposed to open in the beginning of the year, numerous construction delays set the opening date back.
Yet Gia Pronto owner Marco Lentini, who graduated from Wharton in 2002 and from the College in 1996, wanted to take his time with the store and make sure his vision was carried out.
“We have so many new things,” Lentini said.
As the new location is larger and includes a ventilation system, Gia will expand its menu to include new products. Flatbread pizzas will be made in a pizza oven imported from Italy and pastry items will be made fresh and on-site on a daily basis.
“He’s expanding his menu and doing more cooking, which will provide more variety to the campus community and create additional buzz around his concept,” Executive Director of Penn’s Facilities and Real Estate Services Ed Datz said.
In addition, the salad bar at the new store will be three times the size of the one at the original Gia Pronto and it will have a separate cash register line.
“It will be a faster, more streamlined experience,” Lentini said.
Datz explained that “because [Lentini] had the existing [Gia Pronto] … he had the luxury of time and could relocate the new concept while running the [old] concept.”
Lentini first developed his business plan for Gia Pronto when he was a student in Wharton’s MBA program. He is excited by how the business has grown on campus — including the Gia outpost that opened in 2009 by the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania — and is looking forward to the improvements the new store will bring.
“As Gia Pronto continues to evolve we have gone the opposite way of large chains and standardization of food,” Lentini said.
Lentini explained that customers can expect only the best, freshest ingredients sourced from local Philadelphia farms.
“We use produce that was just picked 24 hours ago,” Lentini said.
The new store will also feature a hand-painted, 16 by 7 foot mural by local Philadelphia artist Anthony DeMelas , who collaborated with the well-known photographer Pete Checchia on the project. The colorful mural covers the entire right wall of the store and features pictures of Lentini and his wife Paola’s vacations in Italy as well as images of fresh Italian products such as cheese, vegetables and coffee beans from Italian marketplaces.
“The mural transports you into an Italian world,” DeMelas said.
“The mural combines everything you think of when you think of Italy,” Lentini said. “Food to fashion to chic to high end … It’s beautiful.”
“It ties in the coffee and the fresh produce which is exactly the difference between us and every other chain,” he added.
Students are excited that the new store is finally opening.
“I heard the new store is going to have brick oven pizza,” Nursing freshman Sophie Mintz said. “It’s always nice having a lot of options in one place but it would have been more convenient [if it opened earlier] this year.”
Yet Lentini believes the new store will be well worth the wait.
“[We are serving] the food my and grandma and mom made from scratch,” he said. “Every other place on Penn’s campus isn’t doing this.”
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