Kyle Jacovino has come a long way from his family friend’s pizzeria. Getting his start in kitchens during his high school years in Pennsylvania, Kyle’s focus on food started early. A week after graduating, he took a position as garde manger at the Nemacolin resort outside Pittsburgh. By 20, he was living in the Finger Lakes region of New York, working as sous chef at Mirbeau Inn & Spa. By chance, a waiter there put him in touch with Ryan Smith, formerly of Empire State South, who would become both Kyle’s mentor and the driving force behind his move to Georgia.
It didn’t take long before Kyle found himself working for Ryan as executive sous chef at Empire State South. There, he absorbed Ryan’s intense focus and knowledge about food, and his outstanding skill and work ethic caught Hugh’s eye. Knowing Kyle had ambitions to start a restaurant of his own someday, Hugh sent Kyle to Italy for four months to study everything from the rustic food and pasta-making techniques of Puglia to the ways of a mad Venetian pizzaiola named Walter Rampazzo. While there, Kyle also studied under the Valdiserri, the same family that helped Mario Batali get his start. He fell in love with the Neapolitan lifestyle — and pizza — after visiting cousins there. Upon Kyle’s return to the States, Hugh installed him as the head of the kitchen at his flagship restaurant, Five & Ten in Athens, where he groomed Kyle’s business acumen and leadership skills.
Having steeped himself in Italian food culture, Kyle sees a kinship between the timelessness of traditions in the South and Italy. In The Florence, he sees an opportunity to celebrate his ideal food, which emphasizes simplicity, beautiful ingredients and a symbiotic relationship between the restaurant and the people who raise the food he serves.