Crowd favorite Italian food booth at Shirt Factory Truck Corral buys building a block away

By Zander Frost, Chronicle Staff Writer

Francesca & Giovanni Casanica ‘came across an ocean to do this.’ Photo provided
Giovanni Fresco, the popular Italian food vendor at the Shirt Factory Food Truck Corral, is getting its first brick and mortar location, one block away.

Giovanni Casanica, 30, and his wife Francesca Casanica, 26, have purchased the former Open Door Mission building at the corner of Walnut and Lawrence Streets for $125,000.

“We are excited. We are so happy to be there. We got a lot of love in the past years from the Shirt Factory, a lot of customers,” Giovanni told The Chronicle.

They’ve built the business at such venues. “During the summer, you can find us in live events and farmers markets throughout the week. We’re in both Saratoga farmers markets. We’re in Troy. We’re in Schenectady. And Thursday nights in Glens Falls at the Shirt Factory.”

They’ve been preparing the food in shared community kitchens. Now they’ll have their own kitchen.

“Our business is called Giovanni Fresco. Fresco means fresh. Fresco is not my name,” said Giovanni.

“Our logo is, basically we make it fresh, you eat it fresh, so we want to get the best local ingredients and transform it in authentic Italian cuisine….It seems like here throughout the years, the authenticity of Italian food, the simplicity of the Italian food — it’s a little bit harder to find it.”

Italian & American roots

Giovanni said his father is Italian and his mother is American. He was born in the U.S., but “lived all his life” in Italy, where Francesca was born and raised.

“We’re high school sweethearts, got married and moved here basically to establish this business,” Giovanni said.

Francesca became an American citizen last year, Giovanni says. “She’s in love with here, and the opportunities that this land and cities gave to us.”

They’re from Rieti, Italy, which Giovanni says is known as “il centro d’Italia, the Center of Italy, because it’s the center from north to south and east to west.”

Giovanni said in 2015 his father was hired by GlobalFoundries, and his parents moved from Italy to the Malta area in Saratoga County.

“We came here for a summer, fell in love with the place,” Giovanni said.

Francesca Casanica, making fresh pasta at their Shirt Factory venue. Photo provided

“We went back to Italy, tried to think what we could bring here. And I studied a little bit,” taking culinary classes.

He said cooking is his passion. “I started focusing more on that, and making it our profession and not only a passion.”

Giovanni and Francesca moved to Malta in December 2016. They launched Giovanni Fresco in 2017.

Initially, “I thought that we could open a cheese factory and do some fresh mozzarella,” he said. “In fact, when I went back to Italy, I worked nine months for a cheese factory to try to make mozzarella, ricotta, and all this cheese.

“But then when we came here, time was running, we were not working. And it was a little bit more complicated to do that.

“So we relied on our expertise and love for cooking and started with that.”

Emphasis on freshly made pasta

“We started with just our lasagna,” he said. They added many other items, like their popular four styles of arancini.

But “what made us successful in recent years is our fresh pasta,” he said.

At their biggest market venues, they make the pasta fresh, in front of customers, and cook it.

“We were focusing on the fresh pasta because basically we do most of the work on site” he said. “Most of the time we prepare the dishes right there with local ingredients and get them from the farmers that are attending the market.”

He said the fresh pasta connected with people. “We got just overwhelmed from love from the community because it was something unique,” he said.

“We had a lot of people that never had fresh pasta in their lives and told us that this was life changing for them. The process of making the fresh pasta, a lot of people haven’t seen that.”

The building they bought, diagonally across from Poopie’s Diner in Glens Falls, is in an historically Italian neighborhood.

“This is the part that I love even more,” Giovanni said.

“This is why our business started, first of all. We wanted to bring back those Italian roots, that Italian authenticity. And having this — it makes it even more magical. We want to show them” traditional Italian cooking.

He said that’s why, “I have Francesca, my wife, roll and cut that pasta right there. And I cook it in the back.”

He said people, “came to us with tears saying that this brought back some childhood memories of their Nonna or their grandparents or parents making the fresh pasta at home.”

Giovanni has ambitious plans for the Glens Falls location, but the details are still evolving.

With their busiest season — summer — right around the corner, they are targeting a winter open date.

What Giovanni Fresco currently serves at Farmer’s Markets will likely also be available at the Lawrence Street base.

Giovanni said they also plan to use the space to “produce” and attend more events “up north” meaning “Glens Falls, Queensbury, this area.”

Will the couple move to Glens Falls?

“Who knows? The first step is that we want to get our food out there,” he said. “We’ll see. We’re up to everything. We came across a whole ocean to come and do this!”

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