Born and raised in Florence, Italy, Cristian Pietoso had always been excited about the possibility of moving to the U.S. His father immigrated to the U.S. 35 years ago, following his own brothers’ footsteps. “They all came to look for the American dream and try to do better for themselves and their family,” says Pietoso, who stayed abroad to study culinary arts and work in Florence and London while his father pursued his dream of opening a restaurant in America, first in St. Louis and then in Cincinnati, opening his namesake Nicola’s in 1996.
With his father’s help, Pietoso secured a green card to move to Cincinnati in March 2004, and over the next five years they worked together at Nicola’s. In 2007, the father-son duo opened Via Vite on Fountain Square, but, like his father, Pietoso dreamed of a restaurant of his own. In 2015, three years after Pietoso and his wife became the sole owners of Via Vite, they launched Forno Osteria + Bar in Hyde Park and Americano Burger Bar downtown. The Montgomery location of Forno followed in 2018, and they sold Americano in 2020.
April marked Nicola’s 25th anniversary, and the elder Pietoso celebrated by passing his restaurant’s reins to Cristian. “It’s a great honor because this is where everything started for me as a chef and a restaurateur,” Pietoso says. “To build upon this incredible journey that my dad started 25 years ago, that’s a huge milestone. It’s challenging for most businesses to survive this long, let alone a restaurant in this location [on the edge of Over-the-Rhine].”
Earlier this year, Pietoso and his team renovated the restaurant to write new chapter for the fine dining establishment, and he has plans to completely transform Via Vite next. “I’m a workaholic, and my brain never stops. My wife sometimes thinks that I’m crazy and that I just can’t give up,” says Pietoso, who confirmed that Via Vite is his only other project in the works “for now.”
With a home in Indian Hill and another in Italy, where his family often travels to see his mother, Pietoso says he absolutely would not move anywhere else in America. “The beauty of a city like Cincinnati is that people who come from outside can make a greater impact because it’s a smaller place,” he says. “If I was landing in New York, I’m a spit in the ocean compared to the grand scheme of things. Cincinnati people are loyal, and they’re kind of like ‘stuck on their old ways’ in a good way, because they feel like there’s value to relationships. Landing in a place like this where you know they can embrace you, I think it’s a win-win for everyone—for the newcomer and for the community that embraces them.”