A 36-year story is coming to an end. Next Sunday (May 15th) the Polpettas restaurant, located in the Bigorilho neighborhood, in Curitiba, will close its doors. And the last few days have been one of emotion and happiness for the Zanlorenzi and Gabardo families, founders of the establishment, and for the thousands of customers who participated in the trajectory of the traditional Italian canteen.
Founded in 1986, Polpettas was the third establishment of a family that made history in the gastronomy of Curitiba. It all started back there, when Gennaro Nicolella came to Brazil from Italy and opened the first wood-oven pizzeria in Curitiba, Landerna. Years later he returned to his native country and, upon returning to the capital of Paraná, opened Pizzicato in the 1970s.
In the following 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 pizzas, steak parmigiana and, of course, , the polpettones.
“My grandmother [Rosa] I worked with my grandfather at Pizzicatto until the 1980s, when there was the idea of opening Polpettas and then she 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 to satisfy the need for food. hunger and brighten the taste buds of Curitibans.
As you can see, it is essentially a family business, a characteristic that remains until today. Of the more than 2 million pizzas that Polpettas has made, for example, 99.9% were produced by Fernando Gabardo, who is helped in the kitchen by his wife, Soeli, all under the supervision of the matriarch, Rosa.
His son, Leonardo, stays in the lounge with a waiter, but when things get tough, he also helps out in the kitchen. “Everyone helps each other in a hell of a rush, it’s a team,” he says. “In the past, we used to take delivery from all over town and 200 pizzas a day came out. Today we have a reduced area and, on busy days, 80 to 100 pizzas come out, apart from the pasta portion”, says Leonardo, a member of the third generation of the family.
The sad parting time
Since the house announced the closing plan on social media last Tuesday, a real pilgrimage began. “We have a very nice clientele, most of our customers are families continuing. Families where we saw their children starting, today they go with their children, they already have their grandchildren… It was like this their whole life, passing from father to son”, celebrates Leonardo Gabardo, also commenting that the family already imagined that the farewell to the Italian canteen would generate a commotion, but admitting that they did not have the dimension of affection that the restaurant generated over the decades.
“The last few days have been one hell of a 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 customers that sometimes we don’t have the dimension of what we represent for them. There were several requests for dating, marriage… It created a very strong bond. It’s been difficult for us [a despedida]but we saw that for our customers as well”, says Gabardo.
no turning back decision
Despite all the commotion and the appeal of customers, Leonardo Gabardo explains that the decision to close the house is right. He admits that if he were to get carried away by emotion, the family would end up being turned away from the idea. But at such times, he points out, it is necessary to use reason. “We are very tired, especially my parents, who are already 60 years old, and my grandmother, who is 82 years old. The time has come to slow down”, he explains.
“They opened the restaurant very young, they missed a lot of parties, weddings, important family dates. They were always working and the pandemic showed 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 is made,” he explains.
Thiago Gabardo, Leonardo’s brother and who also worked at the restaurant until he was 24 years old, highlights that Polpettas has always worked with a very lean structure, essentially familiar. To keep the house running, they would have to change this characteristic of the restaurant and expand the structure.
“And then you either make the decision to go in with your head or don’t continue. And the decision not to continue was for this reason, due to the need for rest, the fatigue that the night causes in those who live this restaurant rhythm: there are no holidays, there are no weekends, crooked hours, so that [ter uma rotina mais ‘normal’] naturally it ends up becoming a dream. You can live for a weekend, do the normal working hours, it’s a wish that I see with great joy that my parents and my grandmother can live this, a quieter time. It’s not retirement, but it’s the end of this restaurant cycle. The decision to stop is to guide efforts in this life out of the night.”
The last chance for goodbye
For those who want to say goodbye to Polpettas (or who want to take their last chances to meet the restaurant), it’s better to hurry. Delivery, possibly, will no longer work from today, due to the demand in the house’s salon. The idea is to give the best possible service to customers in these last days, offering a last wonderful experience. In addition, reservations for the next few days are practically sold out, and on Sunday the establishment will serve lunch.
“If someone wants to make a reservation, come to say goodbye, they have to run. I’ve already opened two hours a night to welcome more people, because people who like it usually come and stay all night. I’ll have to limit it, but there are a lot of times 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”.