A 36-year story is about to end. Next Sunday (May 15) the Polpettas restaurant, located in the Bigorilho district, in Curitiba, will close its doors. And these last few days have been of emotion and joy for the Zanlorenzi and Gabardo families, founders of the plant, and for the thousands of customers who have participated in the traditional Italian canteen.
Founded in 1986, Polpettas was the third place in a family that made Curitiba’s gastronomy history. It all started there, when Gennaro Nicolella arrived in Brazil from Italy and opened the first pizzeria with a wood oven in Curitiba, Landerna. Years later he returns to his hometown and, returning to the capital of Paraná, opens Pizzicato in the 70s.
In the following decade it was the turn of Rosa Zanlorenzi who, together with her daughter and son-in-law, Soeli Zanlorenzi Gabardo and Fernando Gabardo, opened the Polpettas, which has always stood out for its homemade pasta, wood-fired pizzas, parmigiana and, of course, the meatloafs.
“My grandmother [Rosa] I worked with my grandfather at Pizzicatto until the 1980s, when there was the idea of opening Polpettas and then he left Pizzicato to start working with my parents “, says Leonardo Gabardo.
“And so it was. My brother [Thiago] was 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 his wife, Camila Garcia Gabardo) at the Italian canteen, which over the decades has produced more than 2 million pizzas for satisfy the need for food, hunger and delight the taste buds of Curitibans.
As you can see, it is essentially a family business, a feature that continues to this day. Of the more than 2 million pizzas that Polpettas made, for example, 99.9% were produced by Fernando Gabardo, helped in the kitchen by his wife Soeli, all under the supervision of matriarch Rosa.
His son, Leonardo, stays in the living room with a waiter, but when things get tough, he also helps in the kitchen. “Everyone helps each other in a hurry, it’s a team,” he says. “In the past we took deliveries from all over the city and came out 200 pizzas a day. Today we have a small surface area and on peak days from 80 to 100 pizzas come out, apart from the portion of pasta ”, says Leonardo, a member of the third generation of the family.
The sad farewell time
Since the house announced its closure plan on social media on Tuesday, a real pilgrimage has begun. “We have a very nice clientele, most of our clients are families who continue. Families where we saw their children born, today they go with their children, they already have grandchildren … This is how their whole life has been, passing from father to son “, celebrates Leonardo Gabardo, also commenting that the family already imagined that the ‘goodbye to the Italian canteen would generate emotion, but admitting that they did not have the emotional dimension that the restaurant has generated over the decades.
“The last few days have been a hellish cry. People enter the restaurant crying, wanting to understand, asking us not to close. They come in crying and we cry together. There are so many clients that sometimes we just don’t have the size of what we stand for them. There have been several requests for dates, marriage … It created a very strong bond. It was difficult for us [a despedida]but we have also seen it for our customers ”, says Gabardo.
no decision to go back
Despite all the hustle and bustle and the lure of customers, Leonardo Gabardo explains that the decision to close the house is right. He admits that if he got carried away by emotions, the family would end up being turned away from the idea. But in these moments, he points out, it is necessary to use reason. “We are very tired, especially my parents, who are 60, and my grandmother, who is 82. It’s time to slow down,” he explains.
“They opened the restaurant very young, they missed a lot of parties, weddings, important family appointments. They have always worked and the pandemic has shown that we also need to value other things in life, to have more time. We thought a lot and saw that we really needed that rest. The decision has been made, “she explains.
Thiago Gabardo, Leonardo’s brother and who also worked in the restaurant until the age of 24, points out that Polpettas has always worked with a very lean, essentially family-like structure. To keep the house running, they would have to modify this restaurant feature and expand the facility.
“And then either you make the decision to enter with your head or not to continue. And the decision not to continue was precisely for this reason, for the need for rest, for the fatigue that the night causes in those who live this restaurant rhythm: there are no parties, no weekends, no wrong hours, so that [ter uma rotina mais ‘normal’] of course it ends up becoming a dream. You can live for a weekend, do normal working hours, it is a wish that I see with great joy that my parents and my grandmother can experience this, a more peaceful time. It is not retirement, but it is the end of this catering cycle. The decision to stop is to guide the efforts in this life out of the night. “
The last chance to say goodbye
For those who want to say hello to Polpettas (or those who want to take the last chance to get to know the restaurant), better hurry. The delivery, possibly, from today will no longer work, due to request in the home salon. The idea is to offer the best possible customer service these past few days, delivering one last wonderful experience. Furthermore, reservations for the next few days are practically sold out, and on Sunday the establishment will serve lunch.
“If anyone wants to book, come and say hello, they have to run away. I have already opened two hours a night to welcome more people, because people who like it usually come and stay all night. I will have to limit it, but still missing a lot of times [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”.