Joseph Pipia is trying to reinvent a neighborhood standard, one his family created more than 15 years ago.
Pipia owns That's Amore, an Italian restaurant at 171-53 46th Ave. in eastern Flushing. Since it opened its doors as a caf in 1993, its popularity has grown and it has evolved into a well-known part of the community.
"It's a nice place," said Francine Reid, who lives in the surrounding neighborhood. "Good Italian food, which can be hard to find around here. I haven't been in a while, actually, but it's a good place for a bowl of pasta."
But despite being open for more than a decade, a rarity in the New York restaurant scene, Pipia said the restaurant fell on hard times during the last 18 months. His father, Anthony, who ,Pipia said was a stalwart support and often sent people over from the barbershop he owned next door for nearly four decades, fell ill and eventually died in November.
"He was there from day one. He knew the neighborhood very well and would tell people to come over for a slice of pizza after they got their hair cut. You get a haircut and you get a meal," said Pipia, a Flushing native.
"So for about a year or so the business could have been managed better than it was. Right now we're trying to revamp things. We're concentrated back on giving people an authentic Italian experience."
For That's Amore, that meant a complete makeover of the restaurant's interior courtesy of Pipia's wife Doreen a new outdoor seating area and the hiring of an Italian chef.
"We wanted to give people your traditional Italian dishes, but we also wanted to go above and beyond that," Pipia said.
True to their word, That's Amore's menu features several Italian staples, from chicken Parmesan to mozzarella caprese, a salad. But the updated menu also has daily specials that take Italian themes and apply them to other styles of cooking such as French or Asian.
Above all, however, the Pipias wanted to keep the familial feel they believe made the restaurant such a success in the quiet residential community.
"It's like visiting someone's house," Doreen Pipia said. "It's about knowing the people that come in here. They see my kids in here and they ask about them and we know theirs, too."
"It's definitely about knowing the customers on a more personal level," Joseph's brother, John, chimed in, as he mixed a drink behind the bar.
Joseph Pipia, who spearheads this mission, can be seen at the restaurant nightly seating customers and frequently checking on the quality of their meals.
"We've been involved in the community for so many years," said Pipia. "These are our roots and that's important."
That's Amore is open daily for lunch and dinner from Tuesday to Sunday and is available for private parties on Mondays. For more information, call 718-358-0400.
Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at Sstirling@
©2008 Community News Group
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