"Our food is made with a lot of love — it’s our grandparents’ recipes," chef Antonio Elezi said.

When Chef Antonio Elezi talks about the Viva Italia Restaurant coming soon to the former Game On location at 211 Munger Lane, generations of passion shine through his words.

“There’s a saying that anywhere you go you may find an Italian, and this is a perfect match,” he said. “Your food is going to be cooked by Italians, it’s going to be served by Italians. Our food is made with a lot of love — it’s our grandparents’ recipes.”

Elezi said the family-owned business will have a soft opening soon, and he looked forward to joining the community of Hannibal and serving made-to-order specialties like chicken dishes, seafood, pizza, pasta, wine and desserts. He and his loved ones were looking to expand upon his uncle’s restaurant in Kirksville, Mo., deciding Hannibal was a great fit for an Italian restaurant. He looks forward to a soft opening for training staff members and to “get the flavor out there so people would enjoy it.”

“We wanted to say hello to the community, and then they can come and see what’s to be expected here,” he said.

Elezi has visited many Italian restaurants in the United States, noting “you rarely find an Italian cooking in the kitchen.” For generations, Elezi and his relatives were taught to “work hard, be right with people, be fair to people, enjoy your life, enjoy your work, enjoy your community where you live” — keeping a positive outlook and not taking things for granted.

Elezi said commitment is a key to success, and he is prepared to work hard with fellow crew members to achieve their dreams in Hannibal. He said that Viva Italia Restaurant will be far more than a business — it is where his family lives their lives, noting “our customers are our everything.”

“It’s a hard business, and we do anticipate to be very successful,” Elezi said. “We do put our hearts and our minds in this business. We take our job very seriously.”

Elezi said the story will reach the next chapter when guests come in to visit. Signs are on the way for the building’s exterior, and finishing touches are being applied to the interior decor. He said the restaurant will be open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. seven days a week. For more information, please call Viva Italia Restaurant’s main phone number at 573-719-3930.

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com