Last Thursday, a pizza and a calzone mysteriously appeared in the office, addressed to me. Because I wasn't actually in the office at the time, said grub was immediately devoured by a variety of salespeople, editors and one very hungry music critic -- trusting souls that they are -- and the next morning, my boss actually passed along the flier that'd come with the free eats.
It was a menu for Tonti's pizza. With an address on South Broadway.
I found this confusing, since I'd thought that the only way I could get a Tonti's pizza or calzone (and I am a big fan of both) was to drive all the way down to Parker, where the sole surviving outlet was located. But not anymore, it turns out.
I called the number on the menu (303-284-4114) and got manager Grey Hatcher on the phone. He explained that this new Tonti's at 2120 South Broadway had just opened on May 15 (they were giving away free pizza all day Thursday, but didn't start selling it until the next morning) -- and from all the noise in the background, it sounded like he was already doing some serious business.
Just to make sure, I asked Hatcher whether this new Tonti's was related to the old Tonti's down in Parker. He said yes. Kinda.
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"To make a long story short," he said, there's something of a schism in the Tonti's restaurant family. The one in Parker is owned by Hank and Judy Wedemeyer and, until recently, was operated by their two sons, Chris and Ben. But then Chris, who'd run the long-gone Tonti's in Elizabeth, decided to start his own place, the Tonti's that just opened on South Broadway. According to Hatcher, the two outlets have a common name, but that's it. "Ben isn't even allowed in this store," he told me.
Curious, I put in a call to the Parker Tonti's, where I reached Chris Wedemeyer himself. He told roughly the same story that Hatcher had -- albeit with a slightly more personal twist. "I don't know what my brother's problem is. I don't know why he doesn't want to support me," he said, then added that he and Ben aren't even speaking at the moment.
Right now, Chris told me, he's running both stores -- bouncing back and forth between Parker and the city, and sounding exasperated by the entire situation. "The two stores are exactly the same," he said. "There's just one character -- my brother -- who isn't involved."
The food is certainly exactly the same at both Tonti's outlets, including some of the best neighborhood-style pizzas and calzones in the area. For the longest time, I was driving all the way down to Parker just to get a fix (I actually have a to-go box in my fridge from that shop right now). So it's good news that now there's a Tonti's just a couple of miles from my office -- and everyone else hungering for Italian in downtown Denver.