It wasn't long ago that I demoted Cherry Creek to a culinary wasteland -- or something like that -- but as soon as the words slipped from my fly trap, I had to eat them. Over the past few months, Cherry Creek has been blitzed with new restaurants: La Merisse, a French spot, unlocked its doors in July in the former Argyll space; Bisque opened in the quarters vacated by Eco Burger; a second Phat Thai, a restaurant from chef Mark Fischer, who owns the original Phat Thai and Six 89 in Carbondale, opened in late December; the Hawt Dog & Sausage Eatery, which wraps its dogs in dough, was on a roll from the moment it opened last week at Second and St. Paul; and today, a sixth Pasquini's Pizzeria started throwing pies at 240 Milwaukee Street.
Actually, make that five Pasquini's.
"We ended our licensing agreement with the Uptown Pasquini's last week," says owner Tony Pasquini, adding that it was "time to go our separate ways." That store -- the second Pasquini's to open in Denver -- will soon change concepts altogether, he notes. And that's just the beginning: While Pasquini owns the Cherry Creek store and the pizzerias in Highland and Lone Tree, his sister operates the Pasquini's on South Broadway, and the Pasquini's in the DTC, which is a franchise, has banned Pasquini -- the man whose name appears on the door -- from stepping foot inside. "Let's just say that we're involved in a lawsuit," he admits.
But back to Cherry Creek. "We're a neighborhood place, and I think this is one of the best neighborhoods in Denver," says Pasquini, noting, too, that he believes that "Cherry Creek is underserved when it comes to the type of food and affordability we're offering." Where else, he asks, "can you get sit-down service at this price point?"
And where else in Cherry Creek has a mosaic wood-burning pizza oven? This is the first Pasquini's to install one, and Pasquini says that when he opens more stores in the future -- which he plans to do as soon as May, when he'll unveil a Pasquini's at East Colfax and Pontiac -- they, too, will have wood-fired ovens. "We're trying to get to the point of knowing what we need to do to keep getting better, and the wood-fired oven, along with using an organic flour from Colorado, local ingredients from Il Mondo Vecchio and Polidori sausage and local wines and beers, will help us achieve that," he says. "We want this to be about eating well, eating organically and eating locally," adds Pasquini.
He's introduced Neapolitan pizzas to the lineup, and the dining room and bar, retrofitted to the Highland location, is a cool space, embellished with booths whose tables are overlaid with bottle caps, a trio of garage doors, hardwood floors and a partially open kitchen, where the oven is center-stage.
I stopped by earlier today to tour the space and sample the food, snapping a few photos along with way.