A chance conversation with my neighbor led to a phone call in late August 2010.
I was looking for someone to feature in our first episode of "Eat It and Like It." At the time, we were unknown. Our TV show was an idea, a 2-minute teaser on the web and an empty palate.
"Who is this?" the voice said.
"My name is Jesse Blanco. I have a brand new TV show called 'Eat It and Like It.' We feature great things to eat in and around Savannah. We'd like to come out to your place and put you in our first episode."
I could hear the trepidation in the silence.
"How much does this cost?" I was asked.
"Nothing. It's purely journalistic," I said.
"Oh, well c'mon on down then. Do you know where we are?"
Thus began a great friendship with a family doing great things in Richmond Hill.
All Things Chocolate and More opened a few years ago in the Publix shopping center on Ga. 144 in Richmond Hill to rave reviews. Almost immediately, they had people stopping in to taste their chocolaty treats. We happened upon this oasis based on my neighbor's recommendation.
You say you haven't been there?
Well, they aren't in the Publix shopping center anymore. That's how good their chocolates are.
Just this week, they've opened their doors on an 8,500-square-foot paradise for, you guessed it, All Things Chocolate ... and more. Who's behind all of this? Well, it's a family affair in its truest sense.
At the center of it all is Margaret Willis, one of the sweetest ladies you will ever meet. (See what I did there?)
Churning out chocolates and sweets around her are her husband and her parents. Everyone has a specialty. If they didn't before, they do now. From the more than 500 molds they now have hanging on the walls to make anything you can think of out of chocolate, to the homemade bread pudding and the cakes and brownies, and and and and â€¦ All Things Chocolate and More is just that.
Let me just add that their cannoli (all homemade) is the best I've had in Savannah. By a country mile. Show stoppers.
They outgrew their space down the road pretty quickly. On Valentine's Day, they'd sell everything they had, pretty much.
It would look like the Grinch ran through there and took EVERYTHING that wasn't tied down.
Only a few wires on the walls and glass cases with crumbly evidence of the sweets that lived there for a bit.
Now in their new location, they have plenty of room to spread out and grow. It took a year to have this spot built.
"Every time it rained for 20 minutes, it would set us back three days," says Scott Riccelli, Margaret's dad. "It took forever."
But everyone is all smiles now, and more.
ATC has exploded in Richmond Hill because they do it the right way. Sure, there is the family atmosphere, the big smiles, the regulars who are known by name and the great location for those who live in Bryan County, but ultimately, there is quality. It doesn't matter how big your smile is if what you are selling isn't good.
This is cut-no-corners excellent chocolate and candies.
Cookies and cream bark? Dark chocolate turtles? Pecan pie squares, truffles, chocolate-covered orange peels. Their most popular? Hard to say, but the "Hot Mess" is tough to top. Potato chips, pretzels, caramel and sea salt all drowning in chocolate. The "Oh MY" is also a fan favorite. Peanut butter, pretzels and salt. Drowning in the same chocolate. Dark or milk. Show stoppers, to be sure.
Not to be confused with someone like Savannah's chocolate rock star, Adam Turoni, where the handmade goodness is generally targeted at a sophisticated palate, All Things Chocolate is the kind of place you take the kids and spend about an hour carefully calculating how many cavities you will tolerate and how many pounds you will gain. It is that type of atmosphere, without question the sweetest spot on the Hill.
There's also now a cafÃ© on one side so you can sit and enjoy a cup of joe and a slice of pie. Crepes are coming very, very soon. There is no doubt in my mind they will be great.
They are open seven days a week, and they take special orders for pretty much any occasion. If they don't have it, trust me, they'll either find it or better yet, make it. This is a beautiful family working round the clock to do things the right way.
Got a lazy Saturday coming up? Put on your stretchy pants and take a ride out to 10471 Ford Road in Richmond Hill. Don't leave without trying the cannoli. Thank me later.