36 years of history is coming to an end. Next Sunday (May 15), Polpettas, located in the Bigorillo area of Curitiba, will close its doors. And the last few days have been filled with emotion and happiness for the Zanlorenzi and Gabardo families, the founders of the establishment, and for the thousands of customers who have participated in the traditional Italian dining trajectory.
Founded in 1986, Polpettas is the third family establishment to make history in Curitiba’s gastronomy. It all started there when Gennaro Nicollella came to Brazil from Italy and opened the first wood fired pizzeria in Curitiba, Landerna. Years later, he returned to his homeland and, returning to the capital of Paraná, opened Pizzicato in the 1970s.
In the next decade, it was Rosa Zanlorenzi’s turn to join her daughter and son-in-law, Soeli Zanlorenzi Gabardo and Fernando Gabardo, to open Polpettas, which has always stood out for its homemade pasta, wood-fired pizza, Parmesan steak and, of course, half pettons.
“My grandmother [Rosa] I worked with my grandfather at Pizzicatto until the 1980s when the idea to open Polpettas came up and then she left Pizzicato to start working with my parents,” says Leonardo Gabardo.
“So it was. My brother [Thiago] born inside, I was born inside, and my nephew [Miguel] He also puts his hand in the dough, makes pizza together,” continues Leonardo, who works alongside his family (including wife Camilla Garcia Gabardo) at an Italian canteen that has produced over 2 million pizzas over the decades to meet food needs, hunger and brighten up the taste buds of Curitibans.
As you can see, this is essentially a family business, and this trait continues to this day. For example, of the more than 2 million pizzas made by Polpettas, 99.9% were produced by Fernando Gabardo, who is assisted in the kitchen by his wife Soeli, all under the supervision of Rosa’s matriarchy.
His son Leonardo stays in the living room with the waiter, but when things go wrong, he also helps out in the kitchen. “Everyone helps each other in a hell of a rush, it’s a team,” he says. “We used to order delivery from all over the city, and 200 pizzas came out a day. Today, we have a reduced area, and on busy days, 80 to 100 pizzas come out, not counting a portion of pasta,” says Leonardo, a third-generation family member.
sad parting time
Since the house announced the closing plan on social media last Tuesday, the pilgrimage has begun. “We have a very good clientele, most of our clients are permanent families. Families in which we saw how their children began are leaving today with their children, they already have grandchildren … This has been their whole life, passing from father to son, ”celebrates Leonardo Gabardo, also commenting that the family already imagined that saying goodbye to an Italian eatery would have caused a stir, but it must be admitted that they didn’t have the same affection that the restaurant had for decades.
“The last few days have been full of crying. People enter the restaurant in tears, they want to understand, they ask not to close. They come in tears and we cry together. There are so many clients that sometimes we don’t have the dimension we provide for them. There were several requests for dates, marriage… It created a very strong bond. It was difficult for us [a despedida]but we have seen it with our clients as well,” says Gabardo.
no way back solution
Despite all the hype and calls from customers, Leonardo Gabardo explains that the decision to close the house is the right one. He admits that if he got carried away by the emotions, the family would eventually turn their backs on the idea. But in such moments, he emphasizes, it is necessary to use the mind. “We are very tired, especially my parents, who are 60, and my grandmother, who is 82. It’s time to slow down,” he explains.
“We opened the restaurant very young, missed a lot of parties, weddings, important family dates. They have always worked, and the pandemic has shown that we need to appreciate other things in life in order to have more time. We thought a lot and realized that we really need this vacation. The decision has been made,” he explains.
Thiago Gabardo, Leonardo’s brother, who also worked at the restaurant until the age of 24, emphasizes that Polpettas has always worked with a very simple structure, essentially familiar. In order for the house to continue operating, they would have to change this characteristic of the restaurant and expand the structure.
“And then you either decide to go with your head, or not to continue. And the decision not to continue was for this reason, because of the need for rest, the fatigue that the night causes in those who live this restaurant rhythm: no holidays, no days off, crooked hours, so [ter uma rotina mais ‘normal’] naturally it becomes a dream. You can live for the weekend, do normal work hours, this is a wish that I see with great joy so that my parents and my grandmother can live this more peaceful time. This is not retirement, but the end of the restaurant cycle. The decision to stop is to direct efforts in this life from the night.
Last chance to say goodbye
Those who want to say goodbye to Polpettas (or who want to take one last chance to get to know the restaurant) better hurry. Delivery may no longer work from today, due to demand in the salon at home. The idea is to provide customers with the best possible service in these last days by offering one last great experience. In addition, the reservations for the coming days are almost sold out, and on Sunday the restaurant serves lunch.
“If someone wants to book a room, come to say goodbye, he needs to run. I’m already open for two hours a day to accommodate more people, because people who like it usually come and stay all night. We have to limit, and there is a lot of time left [vagas para reserva”, diz Leonardo Gabardo, deixando ainda uma mensagem aos milhares de clientes – e amigos – do Polpettas.
“A gente agradece, porque todos adotaram a nossa família e nós adotamos todas as famílias que vieram aqui. Todos os clientes são acolhidos e queremos agradecer por todos esses anos. Vamos ficar morrendo de saudade, já estamos com saudade. Muito mais que um restaurante, a nossa relação com os clientes foi de amizade e amor”, diz ele, deixando ainda um convite para o reencontro. É que a família é proprietária d’A Mercearia Ceasa. “Às pessoas que quiserem nos encontrar futuramente, estamos dentro do Ceasa. Não vai ter restaurante, mas temos café e mais para frente vamos ter alguma novidade lá também”.