Giovanni Restaurant, badly burned in fire, plans fall reopening

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When Giovanni Restaurant suffered a fire in late April, Anastasia Schipani said the roof of the building was so badly damaged she could see through it.

“(It) was hard to handle,” she said.

One month later, though, the Italian eatery — located at 2420 Shattuck Ave. — is still undergoing repairs. Schipani, whose father, Giovanni Schipani, owns the restaurant, said it will likely reopen in the fall.

The fire, which was ruled an accident by Berkeley Fire Department, began on the first floor of the building and eventually spread to the second floor and attic. The building received an estimated $100,000 in damages, though there were no reported injuries.

The restaurant has since experienced an outpouring of support from patrons and community members, Schipani said, some of whom have been eating there for more than 40 years. Giovanni Restaurant originally opened as a sidewalk pizza cafe in 1961 before expanding and reopening as Giovanni Cafe two years later. Schipani’s family reacquired Giovanni Restaurant in 2010 after having sold it several years before.

Giovanni Schipani, 84, still worked at the restaurant daily, helping seat tables and host, Anastasia Schipani said. But most of the current staff had only worked at the restaurant for a short time, she said, and found work elsewhere after the fire.

“The restaurant was busy, but it was a really large restaurant, and it takes a lot to operate it,” Anastasia Schipani said. “It was really important to (Giovanni) to oversee things.”

Though insurance will cover most of the fire damage, she said, keeping the restaurant up and running had “definitely been a struggle.” Some potential buyers have expressed interest in keeping the interior and location of Giovanni Restaurant the same, which Anastasia Schipani said would be ideal.

“It’s almost a landmark,” she said. “We’re hoping that if somebody does take it over, they (would) want to keep some of the history of the spot intact, because it has been a very special restaurant to a lot of people over the years.”

G. Haley Massara is a news editor. Contact them at [email protected] and follow them on Twitter @BylineGraph.