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Well, in the case of the Neighborhood Pizzeria – it was to get to the other side.

As of Labour Weekend the Neighborhood Pizzeria crew have gone from cooking pizzas in a shipping container, where they often faced crazy-making temperatures and only narrowly avoiding melting as concerned customers looked on closely, to restoring an old favourite haunt for many locals, formerly known as Cafe Villagio, just over the road in the Ballance Street Village.

In many ways, crossing the road has also been a case of coming full circle for owner Marcel Campbell. Thirty years ago Anna Walker took on the task of transforming an old Stucco home into what has been known since as Cafe Villagio.  Framed photos on the wall of the new fit-out tell the story of the group of village locals that gathered around to help Anna realise her vision for the original reincarnation of the space.

 At the time Marcel’s dad, Nigel Campbell’s pharmacy was next door where the bookshop is now, so Marcel’s family were amongst that crew of helpers. These past couple of weeks, “by the magic of Gizzy” as Marcel puts it, many of those original helpers including Anna Walker were back in there helping Marcel and his team get it all ready for its Labour Weekend Opening. 

Marcel also served an apprenticeship of sorts when he worked in a waiter for sister Amy and brother in-law Dave when they owned Cafe Villagio some thirteen years or so ago, so after being away in the Bay of Plenty for a few years, this is as much a revisitation of the past as it is a new start for Marcel. That interplay between the past and these new beginnings was clearly front of mind when I sat down with Marcel just 48 hours before Opening Night.

Marcel likened the imminent Opening of the new and improved Neighborhood Pizzeria experience to the first few days at school, “The first couple of days don’t actually go that well” he said, remembering his first day at Central School, just a hop skip and jump down the road. He recalls not wanting to go; the anxiety of meeting other people’s expectations, and likened that to how he was feeling about the week ahead:

“Everyone wants it to be amazing, they want it to be good, and I think it’s going to be – we’ve just got to get through this first couple of weeks or so.”  When we spoke, Marcel wasn’t even sure whether they were going to be able to open that week “that’s how Gizzy it is” with the pizza oven – an Italian Stallion – requiring more juice than a residentially-wired building can provide.

Ultimately though, it’s clear to Marcel, his team and all of the salivating locals that had been counting down the minutes until our new Local opened its doors, that the ingredients for a good time are all present and accounted for..

Take a simple base of pizza, a great wine list, Sunshine Brewery on tap and an outdoor area with Gisborne sunshine and plenty of room for the kids to tear about.  Add your toppings of choice: Sunday sessions in the courtyard, art on the walls, sexy lighting, dining beneath the stars, after-work drinks, cocktails, a fire pit, old friends, new friends, local yokels and you have the new and improved Neighborhood Pizzeria experience, which is nothing short of good times.

As one of the locals whose path home passes directly alongside the new and improved Neighborhood Pizzeria, I fear for the waistlines of myself and my family, knowing how favourably the prospect of pizza, beer and impromptu fun are going to stack up against the gruelling daily reality of having to figure out what to cook for dinner on any given night.

However as was discussed on a balmy and buzzing evening at the Pizzeria last week, those ample waistlines are going to be more than compensated for by the kinds of community-building goodness that is set to go down at this new local hang out that we’ve all been hanging out for. Thanks Neighborhood Pizzeria for filling the gap X

Words by Sarah Cleave

Photographs X Tom Teutenberg.

Keep up with the pizza, cocktail & band of the week at @neighborhoodpizzeria on Facebook & the Insta.

If you’d like your business to be given the Gizzy Local treatment, get in touch! hello@gizzylocal.com

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