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Food Local SCAD

New Italian restaurant Bocci opens near Arnold Hall

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By Sophie Leopold

The Starland District welcomes Italian cuisine to the neighborhood restaurant community. In Nov. 2018, Tiffany Cullen-Salmi and Walter Salmi opened Bocci Italian Bistro on the corner of Bull and 32nd Street. The new Savannah venue is the sister restaurant to their first location in Richmond Hill, Georgia.

Bocci prides itself on serving hearty portions at an accessible price point– SCAD students are even welcome to dine at a discounted rate. Cullen-Salmi describes her husband’s cooking style as rusticated, inspired by the warmth of home. Salmi’s standard of quality is implemented in consistency, his motivation between kitchens to make the best of the sauces for both restaurants. Freshness is key, according to Cullen-Salmi, he would never serve anything he wouldn’t eat. Bocci puts an emphasis on customer relationships and they are always willing to adjust the menu for individual diets or needs.

Salmi grew up in Naples, Italy, in a family with a rich food tradition. In addition to home cooking, he learned culinary skills from his grandparents in the restaurant business. Salmi continued the legacy working as a chef in Germany, Charleston and Savannah’s own Bella Napoli. Establishing his own restaurant has allowed Salmi to find creative ways to make the dishes he knows from home without the oversight. For Salmi, it’s all about infusing the food with love and quality.

“I come from an eclectic family of entrepreneurs,” said Cullen-Salmi. “I grew up around food and beauty.”

Cullen-Salmi was prepared for her current endeavors by a childhood spent with parents in the catering, hospitality and sales industries. The husband-wife restaurateur duo met working for a cousin of Salmi’s, and combined their talents opening Bocci. The restaurant’s name is in reference to connection with family, both of their grandfathers were fond of playing bocce ball.

In her years as a SCAD writing student, Cullen-Salmi became familiar with the area around Arnold Hall. Since going into business together they had sights on a Savannah restaurant. When the property just a few blocks from her former stomping grounds popped up, she knew it was a move in the right direction.

“Starland is a wonderful community that is always in my heart,” said Cullen-Salmi.

Looking ahead, the owners are planning to grow their presence in Savannah. Bocci will likely see expansion in community involvement, cooking classes, a line of products, more in-house ingredients and catering projects.

Featured image credit: Yelp

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