About three years ago, Johnny Goode left his New York City roots, moved his family and opened Gianni's Trattoria, an upscale Italian restaurant in the heart of downtown Concord.
The Great Recession had just begun to affect businesses throughout downtown and the region. It could have gone either way, said Goode, but eventually all of downtown began to thrive.
Fast forward to Jan. 30, and hundreds gathered to celebrate the addition of The Pizza Loft @ Gianni's Trattoria. The restaurant's second-floor venue seats 62 and specializes in calzones, stromboli and pizza.
Goode said he expects downtown businesses to continue to prosper, especially when Carolina Courts opens this fall. The $3.9 million multipurpose sports complex is being built near Memorial Garden in downtown Concord.
Crowds from its amateur tournaments are expected to generate 20,000 area hotel room stays per year. Their money will trickle throughout the city and the county.
"I see a major change coming," said Goode. "Downtown has really been able to pull it together. Every merchant is working with each other. We're talking to each other. We're supporting the businesses downtown, and other people are starting to support downtown as well."
The Pizza Loft had been open about six weeks to work out any kinks, "but everything is smooth now," said Goode, who is happy with final product: True New York pizza.
"It's light, airy dough, with fresh mozzarella and a thin crust," said Goode. "My brother made pizza forever in New York and his dough recipe was fantastic. We had him come down to teach us how to make the dough.
"Then, we made our own sauce, we made our own fresh mozzarella, and we started putting the pieces together to make a real New York pizza - not a New York-style pizza. It snaps in half, it's crisp and you can eat a pizza yourself and walk away not feeling too full."
Goode's family has been making food for three generations. His grandfather had a butcher shop, and his uncle had a restaurant in Brooklyn. He learned the from-scratch philosophy early.
"From vegetables on down, anything we can get locally, we do," said Goode. "Anything that we can pull from local farms, we pull when it's in season."
Before moving to Concord and opening Gianni's, Goode ran Bella Carne, an Italian deli and catering hall in the Hudson Valley area of New York.
His chef, Heather Stadler, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, followed him. She is classically trained in French and Italian cuisine and spent years studying and cooking in Italy.
She said fresh ingredients prepared daily are key to the restaurant's flavor.
"This is fresh - across the board," said Stadler. "A lot of love, care and attention to detail goes into making our products consistent."
Goode said his next likely step will be to expand his catering operation.
"It's already starting to get larger and larger, we're off-site catering more and more," he said.
Goode and his wife, Vicky, live in Concord and have two daughters: Katelyn and Bella Daniella.