"We've been doing this for years."
Luigi Lanzi opened his first restaurant, Lanzi’s, on the Southside in 1920, with his son Lorenzo opening his own eponymous establishment in the city in the 1950s. Lorenzo’s five sons — Joe, Lou, Larry, Chris and Anthony — stayed in the family business, which now boasts four other restaurants in Fulton County. But for more than 20 years, the family had no Amsterdam outpost for its scratch-made Italian specialties. The original Lanzi’s closed in 1985, and Lorenzo’s was shuttered in 1998.
A centennial return to the Southside seemed fitting. “This is where my grandfather started 100 years ago,” chef and owner Joe Lanzi said during an interview in the dining room of Lorenzo’s Southside, the family’s Amsterdam return. “That was a big reason to come back to Amsterdam.” Lorenzo’s Southside is located at 1 Port Jackson Square, about a block from the location of the original Lanzi’s.
Gearing up for the opening was a multiyear project, with an opening meant to coincide with the Lanzi family centennial. But the plans for a grand, crowded celebration for the restaurant — which seats 190 inside and 120 on the outdoor patio — went out the window as the restaurant industry was hit hard by restrictions as the COVID-19 pandemic descended on New York.
So when Lorenzo’s Southside opened its doors on April 1, 2020, it was takeout only. The restaurant didn’t open to dine-in patrons for another couple of months — and even then, seating was limited for a while to outdoors-only. It was a challenge, but one the next generation of the Lanzi dynasty fully embraced.
Joe Lanzi’s three sons — Giuseppi, Gaetano and Giacomo — were all varsity athletes at Amsterdam High School, as was cousin Antonio. Giuseppi and Antonio were state champions in their respective sports — wrestling and swimming — and all brought their competitive nature to navigating the new restaurant through the rocky waters of its first year.
“We’re competitors,” Gaetano Lanzi said. “It’s nothing new to us. We’ve been doing this for years.” “We do well under pressure,” Giuseppi Lanzi said. “That’s what our parents have taught us, our great-grandparents. Through sports and the experience we have in the restaurant industry, it wasn’t difficult at all, actually. We thrive during the hardest times.”
Lorenzo’s Southside, like the Lanzis’ other ventures, is a family operation from start to finish — in the kitchen, in the dining room and on the business end. For the younger Lanzis, ushering the family business forward was only natural. “It’s in our blood,” Giacomo Lanzi said.
Things have settled into a bit more of a pattern now, and Lorenzo’s has quickly become another destination for the authentic Italian cuisine that’s made each of the family’s restaurants a success.
The tight, focused menu features homemade pasta and other Italian classics, as well as homemade bread and the family’s legendary salad dressing.
What sets Lorenzo’s apart from the family’s other ventures, however, is what’s coming out of the 900-degree, imported wood-burning oven. Giuseppi, Gaetano and Giacomo Lanzi trained with famed pizza makers Roberto Caporuscio and Michele D’Amelio in the art of authentic Neapolitan pizza. “We want to bring this concept to Amsterdam, where we’re from,” Gaetano Lanzi said. “It’s Old World techniques that we use, right down to the wood-burning oven.” The wood-fired specialties are in and out of the oven in barely more than a minute, but the process is extremely involved.
“It takes four hours for [the oven] to get up to temperature,” Gaetano Lanzi said. “There’s a lot that goes into it. It takes two days to make our dough. It’s a lot of labor, but it’s worth it. … We open at 4 [p.m.], but [Giacomo] is here at 6 a.m.”
The pizzas — only available as a dine-in option — have quickly become a Lorenzo’s signature, and the family was invited to take part in the 2021 New York Pizza Festival with their primavera pizza, a colorful pie topped with a sweet purple potato pesto, fresh mozzarella cheese, mushrooms, caramelized onions, Grana Padano cheese, fresh basil, olive oil and microgreens.
The pizza, like so many of Lanzi’s specialties, features four integral ingredients — flour, tomatoes, cheeses, olive oil — imported straight from the motherland Italy. “At the end of the day, ingredients matter,” Gaetano Lanzi said. “All of our ingredients for our pizza come from Italy. That’s what sets us apart.” After a century, Lorenzo’s Southside marks an intersection between where the Lanzi family has been and where it’s going. “With the young bucks here,” Joe Lanzi said, “I’m sure there’s a lot more we can do — and we’re going to do.”