By Todd Travis
When Guerino and Carmela Cento opened their doors to Beech Grove in 1962, there wasn’t much of a town around them. They emigrated from Italy in the 50s with the dream of owning a restaurant. After searching for the right place and saving up some money, they landed in Beech Grove.
“Through some of the people he met, Guerino came across Beech Grove before it was really anything,” said Carmelina, Guerino’s granddaughter and current co-owner of Napoli Villa. “He started the restaurant in a small part of the building selling pizza, subs and spaghetti – we were the first place to sell pizza in this area at that time. Gradually he was able to expand and acquire the whole building for the restaurant here on 8th and Main,” she continued. Today, they continue to serve traditional southern style Italian comfort food. “When you come in, you’re going to get a full meal and you’re going to leave full,” Carmelina stated.
The restaurant has had to adapt to the changes and growth in Beech Grove over the last 60 years, but one thing they didn’t want to lose was their traditional, family-style feel. While they have grown, they have stayed true to the flavors that are known in the southern Italian regions. “We began offering catering and accommodations for groups and parties, and we have a dog-friendly patio for people walking their pets down Main Street. More recently, we’re taking advantage of carry-out and delivery services to address the challenges the pandemic has created,” Carmelina explained. “Beech Grove has had its share of ups and downs, but I feel like we’re on the upturn right now. We’ve got such great potential for families and businesses – there are good schools, good communities and good people. It’s kind of a nestled little secret. Wonderful police force and fire department,” she added.
Part of the secret to Napoli Villa’s long history is the way they connect with their community. “I’ve always offered my business as a way to do fundraising, giving 20% back to the not-for-profits that work with us. I’ve opened my doors to the Holy Name Church down the street and I’ve partnered with the senior center as well. We also do toy drives during the holidays and look for ways to help families in need,” Carmelina said. “We also collaborate with local business owners around the area and just try to support each other and help one another whenever we can,” she added. This tight-knit feel is something Carmelina remembers even as a kid running around in Beech Grove. She has watched the town grow, but she feels like it has kept that small-town charm that she has always loved. “I remember the days when it was OK for kids to be out without their parents, and we still have that here. Everyone is conscientious of everyone here. We look out for each other. There’s a lot of places that aren’t like that anymore, but here it’s different,” she said.
Napoli Villa is located at 758 Main S. in Beech Grove. Visit their website at napoliindy.com.