Special Segment, IN SEE Culture

From Italy to Fayetteville: Minniti Illuminating Italy’s Essence in Her Restaurant

As we celebrate the last day of women’s history month, Nadia Minniti, owner of Gusto Napoletano Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria, stands as a shining example of women who fearlessly pursued their dreams, broken barriers, and brought a piece of Italy to Fayetteville.

The restaurant is a dream come true for Minniti, as she’s in her 5th year as a restaurant owner. The writer even got a chance to see Minniti live in action, preparing for eleven special pasta orders.

It takes a lot of hard work in a male-dominated field to get to where she’s at. “People see the sign on the door and say, Oh, you got easy hours,'” she said.

It seems easy on the outside, but there are more ingredients behind the scenes in managing a restaurant. She handles the accounting, scheduling, payroll, social media marketing, food orders, shopping, and cooking from scratch.

She prides herself on serving her clientele with authentic home-cooked food derived from her roots in Naples, Italy.

“We don’t order already-made food like at other restaurants. We make the sauce from scratch. We don’t buy mushrooms already sliced. We slice them ourselves. That takes time; there’s somebody here early in the morning, cooking and preparing [the food],” Minniti shared.

Minniti’s mission is to not only introduce her culture to her customers , but to educate them on the difference between authentic Italian and American Italian food. 

“It’s unknown here. American Italian is very different,” she states when discussing Americans’ lack of awareness of authentic Italian food. 


Sometimes, it takes experiences to navigate through the channels of life that lead one to journey into their purpose. Minniti’s journey toward her purpose started in the early 1990s, when she experienced Italian-based food after she moved to the country from Italy via her spouse’s military orders to the United States. She experienced a cultural shock when she first encountered Italian food in America.

When I first came here 30 years ago, it was a culture shock because there was no [real] Italian food. There were a couple of American Italian restaurants. But it’s a completely different cuisine,” she states.

She openly shares the types of dishes and recipes served at USA-based Italian restaurants compared to her native country are nonexistent.

The inside of Gusto Napoletano Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria – March 19, 2024; Photo Credit: Tracey Morrison/The Exclusive Press

“[In Italy], we never cook chicken with pasta. We don’t put chicken on anything. We don’t put it on pizza. We don’t put it on pasta. We don’t put it on sandwiches,” she explained.

She also added that she was not accustomed to marinara sauce. “Everything [Americans] had was marinara sauce… “I’m like, what is this? We don’t have marinara sauce. I tasted it [marinara sauce] and didn’t like it. It was too sweet and sugary, with too much cheese and too much meat. It’s a diet that slowly kills you,” she added.


Unaccustomed to American cuisine, she began consuming items like hamburgers, French fries, and hot dogs. She began a Mediterranean diet, cooking at home, after she gained a lot of weight from eating American food.

Her progression began when she started cooking more for herself and sharing her love for Italy through food to her peers, which transition of her love for cooking into a career. “I started cooking for people and liked doing it. I told myself I could do this as a career,” she stated.

She obtained an Associate (Lenior Community College) and a Bachelor’s degree (Campbell University) in Restaurant/Food Management Services. She later received her Master’s Degree in Gastronomy at North Carolina State University. She taught culinary arts on a collegiate level at Fayetteville Technical Community College (FTCC) for 13 years, and was over the Culinary Department at Wilson Community College. 

Gusto Napoletano Pizza and Italian Restaurant’s cuisines and desserts; Courtesy of Gusto Napoletano/Instagram

Just when she had seven years left to retire, she left Fayetteville Technical Community College (FTCC)—victimized by gender bias and narcissism from her male counterparts.

She also described the humiliation she endured at the hands of a community college employee who would harass her. “I was teaching a class, and he barged into my class, demanding to use the classroom. I told him I was teaching. He said he doesn’t care and needs this classroom, telling me to go somewhere else,” she stated.

“I had to stop the teaching and apologize to the students. When I looked for another classroom, I saw two empty classrooms next to the classroom I was teaching. He chose mine as an attempt to humiliate me and to prove a point that he’s in charge,” she shared.

It was that moment, she knew there would be no way for her to advance. 


After leaving FTCC, she bravely chose a different career path. That path led her into restaurant entrepreneurship. After 6-7 months of looking for a building, she found a perfect location using a Department of Transportation (DOT) report. She opened Gusto Napoletano Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria, located on 2711 Raeford Road, #112; Fayetteville, NC, in September 2019. 

As a gastronomist who studies food, she has authentic food down to a science. At Gusto’s, all her food is made from scratch. “80% of our ingredients come from Italy,” she stated.

She has a sign outside her restaurant that says, “Pepperoni is not Italian,” which draws curious customers into her restaurant. She revealed in her article through PMQ Pizza Magazine that pepperone in her culture actually means “bell peppers,” and pepperoni is a product of New York City’s invention at the beginning of the 19th century. 


Inside of Gusto Napoletano Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria – March 19, 2024; Photo Credit: Tracey Morrison/The Exclusive Press

The Fayetteville Observer and the Greater Fayetteville Business Journal have featured her restaurant in their news stories. PMQ Pizza Magazine recently named her one of the ten women in pizza to watch in 2024 in the United States.

In her five years of restaurant ownership, she has had her ups and downs, from the pandemic (6 months after her grand opening) to the spreading of false rumors as an attempt to sabotage her business. She takes great satisfaction in knowing her customers comprehend her mission and brand, and they consistently support the restaurant, providing her with the motivation and stability to persist in her work.

Her story serves as a reminder to remain dedicated to your craft despite the odds, especially in a male-dominant field. She advises women who aspire to launch a business to conduct thorough research, read everything, and don’t take no for an answer. “If you’re not assertive, people will bank on your lack of knowledge,” she shared.

Minniti’s journey is also an inspiration, as she stayed true to her heritage with her restaurant. She knows she has a mission and a purpose in Fayetteville, a city not known as a food destination, by using her deeply connected Neapolitan roots and culture into her exquisite food to serve customers’ bellies.

Visit the restaurant’s website at https://www.gustonapoletano.com to learn more about Chef Minniti and her restaurant.

Also, follow Gusto Napoletano Pizza and Italian Restaurant on Facebook and Instagram at Gusto Napoletano

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.