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Cafe Napolitana Moving to Gay Street, Changing Name

Susan Post Susan Post Cafe Napolitana Moving to Gay Street, Changing NameAracri on Gay will open at 51 E. Gay St. in November - Photo by Susan Post
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Downtown’s Cafe Napolitana will turn a corner this fall. The long-standing pizzeria will move from 40 N. High St. to 51 E. Gay St. and start slinging pies under a new name.

Rebranding to Aracri on Gay, the eatery will still offer its signature pizza by the slice, but breakout some fancier fare come dinner time.

There will be a bit of a slice shakeup. Owner Palmo Aracri explains that instead of customizing slices as customers do now, diners will see a plethora of pre-made pies, pick their slice and it will be popped in the oven. Aracri assures long-time fans they need not worry, the regulars that have been ordering the same thing for years will likely see their pies on the counter daily.

Slices will be served until 4 p.m. then pasta and calzones appear on the menu. Aracri says the Gnocchi Rosa is making a comeback, but deep-fried calzones will be a main attraction.

Aracri on Gay will have a full bar with beer, wine and liquor, transferring the license from Napolitana’s back-of-the-house Alley Bar.

According to Aracri, they never reactivated the Alley Bar space coming out of the pandemic, giving Napolitana a lot of square footage they weren’t really using He’d already been looking for a smaller place in the area, when the Gay Street address became available.

Previously occupied by Uptown 51 Kitchen + Bar, the building’s landlord terminated the restaurant’s lease in September 2021 for the non-payment of rent totaling more than $13,000. The restaurant had quietly opened during the pandemic, and according to its website, gone through a number of menu changes featuring everything from burgers to steaks. The owners behind Uptown 51 are still slated to be part of the Trolley District’s East Market with a chicken-nugget focused concept, Trolley Barn Chicken.

In the new digs, Aracri on Gay will seat about 50, roughly half the capacity of their current space. At the front of the restaurant will be a soft seating area with a few tables, then a dozen bar seats, and more seating and an open kitchen in the back.

There’s a lot Aracri is excited about in staying Downtown. He says they briefly considered moving to the suburbs but, “It’s hard to walk away from a business that you’ve owned for 30 years on High Street.”

A new street means a new kind of foot traffic, something that really can vary in such close proximity Downtown, and puts the pizza joint in a bustling Gay Street restaurant scene. But it’s also the customers Aracri loves, and just how wide that customer base is Downtown. Napollitana finds itself serving everyone from someone who may be scraping a few dollars together for a slice, to the CEOs of major companies.

There’s also something about contributing to the fabric of not only Downtown, but the city as a whole.

“When you own a business Downtown you kind of represent the city,” Aracri says.

Operations at Napolitana will be winding down soon so the current pizza oven can be moved over to the new space. Aracri is hoping for a mid-to-late November soft opening in the new digs.

In the interim, there’s always campus-area expansion, Aracri Pizzeria at 1607 N. High St. The offshoot opened in the University District’s Gateway in fall of 2018.

Aracri on Gay is still finalizing hours, but will be open daily for lunch and dinner, with whisperings of a possible brunch on the weekends.

For more information, visit cafenapolitana.com.

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