MUSKEGON, MI – Jeff Church says that visitors to his restaurant often tell him that it’s a ‘hidden gem.’
“But we’re a bright yellow building in a shipping container, so I don’t know,” the owner and chef at Nipote’s Italian Kitchen told MLive in a recent interview.
The unique downtown structure opened to the public in July, 2019, offering a range of Italian favorites, from appetizers like bruchetta, caprese salads and garlic shrimp, to salads, soups, paninis, chicken cacciatore, eggplant parmesan, and, of course, pastas.
There is also a full bar, including a rotating list of 24 Italian wines.
It has been a year full of “ups and downs” for the business, located at 98 W. Clay Ave., Church said, as they went from bright and busy beginnings to shutting down for three months during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
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Business is picking back up, Church said, and while it’s “not back to where we should be,” he is optimistic after a beautiful summer that saw many customers out on the patio, even after plans to hold an anniversary celebration in July were dashed.
“Social distancing isn’t ideal for a social establishment, but there’s nothing we can do about it, so we’re rolling with the punches,” he said.
Church, a Reeths-Puffer grad and Muskegon native, said he’d opened the business – his first brick-and-mortar – inspired by family trips to Italy. He wants prospective customers to know that they are welcome regardless of whether they’ve had Italian food before, or whether cacciatore trips easily off their tongue.
“I get fresh food in every day, keep everything fresh, fun and approachable,” he said. “(I want customers) to not be intimidated by any Italian words that they might not be able to pronounce…we’re very casual.”
The restaurant can be reached at (231) 725-5100. It is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and is closed on Sunday and Monday. Check out the menu here.
Visit the website for wine and dine events and other information.
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