Tony Pasquini has had a very wild year...and it's not over yet. His history in the local restaurant business stretches back to 1986, when, barely of legal age to have a liquor license, he founded the first Pasquini's Pizzeria, at 1310 South Broadway. He later sold it to his sister while he opened other restaurants and franchised still more, then started buying back some of the franchises. When he opened a new restaurant at 240 Milwaukee Street early this year, though, he was sued by his sister, who claimed that a Pasquini's in Cherry Creek infringed on her territory, so he changed the name to Tony P's.
And all along, he was working to bring Pasquini's back to East 17th Avenue, where there had been a store since 1998 -- although after a falling-out with the franchise owners in 2011, that spot, at 1336 East 17th, turned into a second Serioz Pizzeria. See also: - Photos: A look at Pasquini's on 17th - Pasquini's changes name of Cherry Creek shop to Tony P's - Original Pasquini's launching new look, logo and happy-hour menu
Finally, in early November, Pasquini officially opened the doors of a new Pasquini's Pizzeria in the massive two-story space at 777 East 17th Avenue left vacant when J.R.'s pulled out abruptly. And he managed to open it under the original name, though he hints that there could still be some problems there. "I'm just pushing forward and doing what I do, trying to do what I'm good at," he says. "And I'm dealing with the C-R-A-P as it comes up."
For example, he got some comments that the paint job at the new Pasquini's looked like crap. "Most people are happy with it," Pasquini responds. "We're about expressing ourselves, and, hey, our restaurant on South Broadway was pink back in 1986, then I painted it purple in the '90s. Here, we have pink and purple with flowers."
He has plans to make this Pasquini's even more expressive. He's brought in wood-burning ovens to offer true Napolitan pies, and made some tweaks to the menu first introduced at Tony P's, giving diners healthier, even gluten-free options.
But that's not all he plans to give diners; On Monday, he had a hearing at the city to get a cabaret license so that he can offer live music, which has been such a hit at the Pasquini's Pizzeria at 2400 West 32nd Avenue. Neighborhood groups all supported the application, and the hearing officer recommended that it be approved. "We want to re-create the neighborhood-gathering-place feel that we've created in Highland," Pasquini explains. "For the music, we have a lot of different ideas we're working on. It could be DJs playing parents' kind of basement music -- '70s and '80s, Donny and Marie or Nirvana, depending."
Or something even livelier if you're talking about Judy "Mama" Pasquini, the family matriarch, who was there when her son opened his first store 26 years ago and was greeting guests at the 17th Avenue location earlier this month. "Regulars are coming in, and they're so happy we've reopened," says Pasquini.
And so is he. A version of this story first appeared in Cafe Bites, our weekly e-mail newsletter devoted to the drinking and dining scene in Denver. Find out how to subscribe here.