Il Focolare

An example of the pizza that will be served at Il Focolare.

Come the end of September, Pizza will once again be baking in Cottontown.

Sarah Simmons and Aaron Hoskins, who own and operate smallSUGAR and The Cafe at Richland Library, are bringing their long-dreamt of pizza place to 2150 Sumter Street (yes, the now-defunct Citta del Cotone building). The new restaurant, called Il Focolare, will feature a few New York City twists. And unlike the previous tenant, which focused on Neapolitan pies, Il Focolare won’t feature a set style.

“Aaron and I have been talking about what we would have at a pizza place since we met,” Simmons tells Free Times. “We’ve had an extensive amount of discussion on the pizzas we love and that’s what we will serve.”

Some of those well-loved pizzas include classic cheese and pepperoni; a prosciutto and arugula with Freshly Grown Farms greens; a spicy double pepperoni; and even a little neck clam pizza that is an homage to one of their favorites from New York. They’re also bringing in Nicole Storey from Izzabee’s Confectioneries as executive pastry chef for CITY GRIT Hospitality Group, the umbrella organization for Simmons and Hoskins' restaurant and hospitality efforts.

“It will have that big city style that our food in general brings to the table, with high-quality ingredients and techniques,” Simmons says.

This pizza dream came together quickly, Simmons acknowledges, with the former occupant closing in June.

“The partners in the old place came to us and asked if we wanted to open a pizza place and we said if we can run it the way we want to run our restaurants, paying our team a livable wage and providing great food and service,” Simmons offers, explaining how she and Hoskins ended up taking over the previous tenant's lease. The Citta team will have no involvement in the new venture.

Paying a living wage is something Simmons and Hoskins think is very important. The menu, like the one at smallSUGAR, will feature pricing that is based on non-tipping.

“We think this will be the first full-service restaurant in Columbia that doesn’t accept gratuity,” Simmons posits. “It’s going to be interesting and a challenge for our guests in the beginning.”

Il Focolare will only serve dinner at first, planning to add brunch and possibly other services down the line. Exact hours for the restaurant haven’t been determined.

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