They’re calling their new Maryville restaurant Amici. Which makes sense because “amici” means friends in Italian, and Chris Thompson and Taylor Sauls are friends going way back.

Amici is going to be an Italian restaurant: “Pizza, pasta and beer” is how they bill it on their logo.

Both men live in the East Broadway Avenue area and want their business to be part of the community.

Thompson, owner/chef, and Sauls, general manager, have accumulated 40 years working in the restaurant business, from dishwasher on up.

“He and I have been friends for a long time. He’s probably my oldest friend,” Thompson said. “We’ve always talked about if we had an opportunity to do something we wanted to do, that we would. This came across our laps and we went for it. So here we are.”

There they were Tuesday working at their place in progress, making sure the major items were in position for the stretch run they expect will allow opening by the end of June.

Then and now

Like the restaurant’s partners, the site for Amici has a history in the business. Two years ago it closed after making a go of it for a while as the Foothills Milling Co. Bakery, which provided baked goods for the upscale Foothills Milling Company (where Thompson worked) on Washington Street in Maryville.

That’s relatively recent history. Thompson noted that the site for Amici, located at 1420 E. Broadway Ave., at the roundabout, started out as a food place decades ago. He points to the concrete where marks reveal where the lunch counter and stools were attached to the floor in the early 1940s. Not everything dates that far back, both amici noted.

“I’ve been fortunate throughout my life to be able to have met and interacted with and been friends with some very talented people. So to utilize their talents here, whether it be with some welding, some woodworking or some graphic design, or the actual laying of paint and designing it on the wall like we did with our logo. We just want to give them exposure, showcase their abilities and their talents, too,” Sauls said.

Thompson added, “People can come in and see what Jimmy’s done with the tables, or what Will had put on the wall, and the design that Bailey had made or different things. It’s really cool to see.”

It’s all part of the community connection. Graham Pearson of Tri Star Metalworks did the welding, Jimmy Beard of One Kind Woodworking did the woodworking, Bailey Riddle of Richards Design Group did the graphic design, William Lunsford of Wide Awake Studios did the mural/stencil work.

Putting on the taste

It’s about keeping it close and keeping it real, and like with any restaurant — about the food.

“We’re going to be heavily Italian influenced, but we’re going to be very open, be able to embrace whatever we’ve got, be eclectic with what we do,” Thompson said. “Our menu will be very focused on the fresh pasta and the pizza. We’re doing a couple of antipasto ideas, salads, and we’ll play around with some appetizers.”

The pizza crust will be thin, kind of cracker-like. More Midwest than New York.

They’ll also be making sausages and meats — cheeses, too, fresh buratta and fresh mozzarella.

As for that community thing ...

“Amici means friends, and that’s exactly how we want everybody to treat each other here,” Thompson said. “It’s what you do if you have dinner parties with friends. You end up cooking each other’s dishes at some point, and making changes and being a community, and that’s exactly what we’re hoping to be a part of.”

Bob has served in a variety of roles since joining The Daily Times in the 90s. He currently is editor of the business section. When someone gets promoted, retires or gets hired at a new job in Blount County, he's the man to email.

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