Pasquini's will take over the old Panera space in Cherry Creek

Since he opened the first Pasquini's on South Broadway in 1986, Tony Pasquini has grown his Italian restaurant into a family of five, expanding (in some cases via franchise) into the Highland neighborhood as well as Uptown, Lone Tree and the Tech Center.

Now the owner is about to add another location: A brand-new Pasquini's is slated to open this fall in Cherry Creek, in the former home of Panera at 240 Milwaukee Street.

"I live near there," Pasquini explains. "I'm excited to put a Pasquini's in the little neighborhood."

Like its siblings, the new restaurant will feature "mismatched everything that all fits together," the owner explains. It'll also share the same board of beverages (as long as it lands its liquor license; a hearing is slated for early next month) and the typical Pasquini's menu of pastas, pizzas, pizzettas and calzones, albeit with one twist: "I bought a wood-burning oven for Napolitano-style pizzas in addition to everything else," he says.

As he builds out that restaurant, which he hopes to open by Christmas, Pasquini has also been quietly buying back his franchises, bringing the Highland and Lone Tree locations back into his hands. "I'm not doing franchises anymore," he says. "I want to be in control of my own destiny."

But that doesn't mean the restaurateur is done expanding. "Things are in flux, but we plan to open up only company stores from here on out," he says. In fact, he's close to signing a lease on a space being built over on Colfax and Pontiac in Aurora that will give him 4,000 square feet -- plus a 1,000-square-foot patio.

That location could open as soon as this spring.

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