Spoleto, a popular chain of Italian restaurants in Brazil, Mexico, and Costa Rica, has chosen Central Florida for its first location as it expands into the U.S.

America's first Spoleto is set for Plaza on University, the student housing and mixed-use development across from the University of Central Florida campus. Construction has begun, with an anticipated opening in January. A second location is planned for Winter Park, Flordia, anticipated to open by the end of April.

"We chose the UCF area because it's a great demographic for us to reach and capture coming out of the gate," says John Velasquez, president of Spoleto USA. "Orlando is also a growing city that can propel our brand to future growth throughout the country."

Spoleto has plans to open several units throughout Orlando, Florida, and the surrounding area, all company owned and operated. From there, the plan is to expand into other Florida markets before taking the concept to other states.

Spoleto combines the speed of fast-casual service with the quality food of an Italian restaurant. Guests can choose from pasta, flatbreads, salads, and soups, and interact with a chef to experiment with a variety of fresh, organic ingredients to create their own recipe to their taste and preference. Guests can also leave it up to the chef and select one of our chef created salads, flatbreads, or pastas from the menu.

"It's like having your own Italian kitchen and you're the chef," Velasquez says.

 Spoleto puts a premium on fresh, local, and sustainable ingredients when possible, as well as healthy cooking techniques.

"We want our guests to have a perfect meal, so we give them the freedom to pick and choose their favorite ingredients," Velasquez says. "Then our chefs make it come to life by utilizing their skill and passion to produce healthy, delicious dishes with vibrant flavors every time."

Spoleto began in 1999, when restaurateurs Eduardo Ourivio and Mário Chady developed the concept in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil is home to the largest population of Italians outside of Italy, more than 25 million people. Italian food is an integral part of the culture in Brazil, but the pair felt that good Italian food was hard to find outside of expensive restaurants. The two developed Spoleto to bring fresh, high-quality Italian food to everyone.

The concept quickly caught on and now has 380 successful units in Brazil, Mexico and Costa Rica. In the U.S., Spoleto is entering the fresh, fast-casual space, and will target end caps, inline and pad spaces between 2,500 and 3,000 square feet.

"At Spoleto we've created a unique experience that is completely different from other Italian concepts," Velasquez says.

Velasquez comes to Spoleto from Domino's Pizza International, where he worked on international development and expansion in Latin America and the Caribbean.

News, Spoleto