Vito Gironda came to Southern Pines with a few dollars and incredible pizza-tossing skills tucked in his pocket. At age 22, he opened Vito’s Ristorante & Pizzeria with his brothers Giovanni and Frank in the building that now houses Scott’s Table. Unlike our early-twenties ventures, Vito’s was a success — and still is, four decades later.
“I had no idea when I opened this place that it would someday become one of the oldest restaurants in the area,” Vito said. “We’ve stuck through thick and thin.”
Living the American Dream
After draining savings accounts and scrounging up every penny they could find, Vito, Giovanni and Frank Gironda turned over an open sign on the door for the first time in July of 1980.
“We borrowed money from everyone we could,” Vito said. “It was a risk, but I remember thinking, ‘this is the opportunity of a lifetime. It’s the American dream. I’m not going to let this go by.'”
A few things have changed over the years. Vito and his brothers started building their current location on SE Broad Street in 1995. Four years later, they made the move.
“People told me I was crazy. They said that moving never works out,” Vito said. “But I told them it was either this building or I was out.”
The new space came with a larger kitchen that allowed Vito’s to expand their entree selection, which now makes up about half of the menu. The OG location served mostly pizza.
Much of Vito’s Ristorante & Pizzeria, however, has withstood the test of time. The conversation still flows freely throughout the restaurant, just as it did 40 years ago. The handmade wooden booths that line the restaurant are the same booths where customers sat on opening night 40 years ago.
In more ways than one, some things are built to last. But longevity isn’t easy. Vito can attest to that.
“The recession of 2008. That was probably the toughest time,” Vito said. “But we’re still here. Being closed for nine weeks due to the pandemic wasn’t fun, but we made it. We’re still standing.”
Raising a Glass to 40 More
You’ll still find Vito clad in a black polo and jeans, making his way around the busy dining room, but the internal operations of the restaurant are handled by his son Marco and his nephews, Michael and Mino.
Nowadays, Vito spends much of his time in the garden behind the restaurant. The garden has been around for a little more than 10 years, and this year, it produced the largest tomato harvest he’s ever seen.
The pandemic took away his customers for a few weeks, but it did bring him 360 pounds of heirloom tomatoes. Life really is about give and take.
Whether he’s out back pulling produce from the vine, in the kitchen tossing dough or greeting customers on a Friday night — Vito’s hustle never stops.
“I believe in my heart that it’s all about never believing you’ve arrived,” he said. “Never take things for granted, never forget how you got where you are, and never changing the quality of your food. You have to continue to improve.”