Homestyle Italian food restaurant to open in Wittenberg area

An outdoor homestyle Italian food venue is set to arrive in Springfield near the Wittenberg University campus this summer.

The restaurant’s name, Eatly, is a play on the country name of Italy and his family’s roots, said owner Tom Thompson. It is planned to open at 601 N. Fountain Ave. on July 23.

“It’s gonna have a combination of both American and Italian comfort-type food,” Thompson said.

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Thompson previously owned the restaurant, “Not Guilty Cafe,” that had two locations in the Columbus-area.

His restaurants were featured in the MuscleMag publication in the 1990s, because he promoted foods popular with bodybuilders, athletes and others in the fitness community.

“We were one of the first fat-free and low-fat restaurants at the time, so a lot of health enthusiasts would come in, mostly bodybuilders and competitive fitness people,” he said. “When top bodybuilders would come in town, I did a lot of their food prep, and delivered meals specifically to them. It was more of a healthy fare of good comfort food, but it was low-calorie and low-fat.”

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Four years ago, he moved to the Springfield-area to be near his aging parents. He said his mother’s Italian heritage inspired his latest restaurant venture.

“My background on my mom’s side is from Italy,” he said, “and I just have a passion for Italy. I love it. I’m in the process of applying for dual citizenship. I’m an American citizen, but I travel back and forth to Italy every year since 2011, when I started tracing my family back.”

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He said items on the menu will reflect family recipes, and the restaurant’s atmosphere will mirror Italian cafes.

“I got in contact with cousins over there that I never knew, and I’ve just been trying different recipes that they have shared with me,” Thompson said. “It’s more authentic. Since we can’t go over right now because of COVID, I wanted to create something over here with kind of the same feel and vibe of a European cafe that you’d find, like out at the beaches in Italy.”

He added that other inspiration for the restaurant came from the pandemic setting.

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“This is all based on all of us going through COVID-19, with everything being centered more outdoors, this is pretty much what this is about too,” Thompson said. “It’s all outdoors. Food is prepared outdoors, and it’s kind of a setting like you’d see in a cafe in Italy. We also believe in green, so we’re definitely going to be recycling (materials) a lot.”