BiS: BusinessInSavannah.com - Business news for the creative coast.

City Talk: Sugo Rossa brings Italian to Twelve Oaks, prompts another look at city’s divide

Sugo Rossa opened earlier this summer in Twelve Oaks Shopping Center in the space formerly occupied by Atlanta Bread Company.

The Italian restaurant is the latest venture from the proprietors of Cotton & Rye, which has been a huge hit since opening at the corner of Habersham and 34th streets in 2015.

I’ve been to Sugo Rossa twice — probably fewer times than many readers of this column — to enjoy the hearty, flavorful menu.

On a recent evening, three of us ordered a number of items – and we cleaned our plates. My favorite dishes that night were the fried calamari appetizer ($13), the spaghetti and meatballs ($17) and the wood fired pizza with shrimp and chorizo ($19).

Several days later, I popped into Sugo Rossa for a solo lunch at the comfortable bar. In addition to some of the items available at dinner, the lunch menu includes sandwiches and a number of other easy options.

I ordered the meatball parmigiana sandwich ($11), which was served on a fresh hoagie roll. I opted for the rosemary parmesan fries, but the rich dish can also be served with a side salad. The sandwich was so filling that I took half of it home.

Sugo Rossa has a wide selection of beer, wine and cocktails. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. You can find out more details via the restaurant’s website (www.sugorossa.com) or Facebook page.

The dividing line of DeRenne

My two trips to Sugo Rossa got me thinking about the curious position that DeRenne Avenue occupies in the local consciousness. The owners of Sugo Rossa join the list of business people who have invested both north and south of DeRenne, and many of us drive across DeRenne for work and shopping, but the corridor still divides the city in significant ways.

Folks who live south of DeRenne are sometimes reluctant to go north of it. Some who live north of DeRenne are sometimes reluctant to go south of it. Obviously, I’m painting with a broad brush here, but if you’ve lived in Savannah for any significant amount of time, you know what I’m saying.

Savannah has had many geographical dividing lines over the decades, often related to racial segregation. Significant stretches of streets like Bull and Price have been viewed as dividing lines between mostly white and mostly black neighborhoods, but some of those lines have been disintegrating — or maybe just shifting.

DeRenne Avenue, on the other hand, has become a dividing line between two distinct development styles. The older neighborhoods to the north were typically designed in traditional grids, while the neighborhoods south of DeRenne were developed along a more suburban, 20th century model, with high-capacity arterial streets, larger scale developments and, in many areas, fewer street trees and sidewalks than in older neighborhoods.

The long-planned Project DeRenne (www.savannahga.gov/?nid=885), which has been in the works for almost a decade, would eventually make the road feel more like a “boulevard.” The proposed design would in theory reduce congestion on DeRenne by expanding capacity on Hampstead Avenue and other streets.

In theory, improvements to DeRenne Avenue could spur landowners to upgrade some of the aging and underutilized commercial properties along the corridor.

If all those pieces fall into a place over the next decade or so, DeRenne Avenue might feel less like a dividing line that splits the city between north and south.

Or maybe we will see DeRenne become less of a physical and psychological barrier before the major public investment in the corridor. If more entrepreneurs with a presence on one side of DeRenne decide to expand to the other side, their patrons might follow, which could slowly whittle away at the existing barriers.

However it happens, a freer flow of people and commerce across DeRenne Avenue would be good for the regional economy.

Unemployment rises, but not worrisome

According to the latest estimates from the Georgia Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for the Savannah metro area (Chatham, Effingham and Bryan counties) was 4.8 percent in June, a significant increase from 4.4 percent in May.

But there is no reason to be alarmed. The local unemployment estimates are not adjusted for seasonality, and we should always expect a spike in the unemployment rate in June because of entirely predictable trends.

The Savannah area unemployment rate in June 2016 was 5.5 percent, so the 4.8 percent rate for June 2017 looks really good.

The numbers behind the headline estimate are also strong. Compared to a year ago, we have seen significant growth in the size of the local labor force, but we’ve had even faster growth in the number of workers reporting themselves as employed.

At the same time, significantly fewer members of the labor force reported themselves as unemployed in June compared to a year earlier.

City Talk appears every Tuesday and Sunday. Bill Dawers can be reached via billdawers@comcast.net. Send mail to 10 E. 32nd St., Savannah, Ga. 31401.

Comments