Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Ian Schneider recalls fondly the bottle of Chianti that graced his family’s dinner table.
“It was always there,” he says. “It made things better. If mom was mad at dad, Chianti made it better. If we were celebrating, Chianti made it better. If we were mourning after a funeral, it helped curb the sorrow.”
For Ian, the Italian table wine in the little wicker basket represents family — sitting down to a home-cooked meal with people you love, laughing over a story or missing a loved one whose seat is now empty.
“Whatever was happening in the world or that day, if we sat down and had a family meal, things seemed to get better,” says Ian.
After specializing in Italian cuisine in culinary school and holding high-profile corporate jobs at such companies as Friendly’s, Sbarro, and Earl of Sandwich, Ian opened Chianti’s Pizza & Pasta in Sanford/Lake Mary six years ago. It’s quickly become a family favorite in the community, and Ian just opened a second Chianti’s location in Longwood at the corner of State Road 434 and I-4.
“The food is handmade, much like it was when I was a kid,” Ian says. “Nothing is canned or prepared ahead of time. Everything is fresh.”
Like its namesake, Chianti’s offers affordable luxury to all walks of life.
“Chianti was the wine of the Italian peasant, so it wasn’t pretentious,” explains Ian.
Likewise, his restaurant, while offering homemade meals on tables draped in white tablecloths, suits those on a budget looking for a tasty lunch as well as couples celebrating a laid-back evening out or a major anniversary. Ian hosts everything from baptism celebrations to post-funeral dinners, and he greets guests as family for date nights or family dinners. Sometimes, kids are even invited back into the kitchen to make princess pizzas with Uncle Ian.
Ian also enjoys hiring and mentoring local high schoolers.
“The only way to grow a business is through great people, so we take these young kids and teach them the value of hard work and give them the tools they need for their next employment,” he says.
Ian’s commitment to the community doesn’t stop there. Chianti’s provides pre-game meals for Lake Mary and Seminole high school football teams, sponsors a Keep Kids off Drugs campaign in Sanford, and serves as the City of Sanford’s emergency operations center food management provider, delivering hot meals to first responders during an emergency.
“It’s all about pulling together when times are tough,” says Ian. “Chianti is for everyone, and Chianti’s Pizza & Pasta represents something different for everyone. The dynamic is truly family, and it all starts with that bottle on the table.