Tony Pasquini opened the first Pasquini's Pizzeria in 1986 at 1310 South Broadway, a space that's expanded several times over the years. But that hasn't been the only change in the Pasquini's restaurant empire. At the same time Pasquini opened other locations, he also allowed franchise operators to run restaurants under the Pasquini name. In fact, he sold the original Pasquini's location in 2004, but after problems with some franchises, he began buying back all of the independently owned restaurants that bore the Pasquini's name.
"I really wasn't happy with the way things were going in terms of quality and my name being on it," he says.
The South Broadway location is now owned by his sister.
But there can be problems when you keep it in the family, too. Last fall, Tony Pasquini decided to put a Pasquini's in the former home of Panera at 240 Milwaukee Street. "I live near there," he told us at the time. "I'm excited to put a Pasquini's in the little neighborhood." And when he opened it early this year, his mother was a partner in the operation. But his sister wasn't comfortable with another Pasquini's being so close to the one she owned, he explains -- so he just changed the name of the Cherry Creek store to Tony P's.
"It was kind of a family issue," he says. "Instead of fighting, I decided to re-brand and get back to what Pasquini's was all about." Which is family-owned, community-involved, and fresh food made from local ingredients.
With the new name, Pasquini is also adding new items to the menu. The restaurant now serves roasted chicken and several gluten-free options. And although gluten-free might not seem to make sense at a pizza place, that's where the trend is going, Pasquini observes, and customers are happy to have healthier options. "We have a pretty good clientele," he says. "We just want to continue to serve them and serve them better."
He'll soon have another spot to do just that: In October, he'll open another restaurant -- this one definitely named Pasquini's -- in the former home of JR's, at 777 East 17th Avenue, just down the street from where one of the franchise Pasquini's closed last fall. (It's now a Serioz pizza place.)
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That will make five Pasquini family restaurants; there are also Pasquini's locations in Highland and Lone Tree. A version of this story originally appeared in Cafe Bites, our weekly e-mail newsletter devoted to Denver's food and drink scene. Find out how to sign up here.