Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Uptown Westerville is a Place for Family Business

Westerville Uptown Merchants Association member Pasquale's Pizza & Pasta House, 14 N. State, is in this week's ThisWeek:

Pasquale's keeps family tradition in Uptown Westerville

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 1:51 PM

ThisWeek Staff Writer

Editor's note: This story is the third in a five-part series examining what makes Uptown Westerville unique and highlighting selected businesses there.

When Sylvia Francisco wanted to retire from her job as a baker and cake decorator with Kroger, her husband decided to help her open her own restaurant in Uptown Westerville.

Twenty-two years into their venture, Pasquale's Pizza & Pasta, 14 N. State St., is still going strong and prides itself on being the oldest independent restaurant in Uptown.

"We're the old goats of Uptown," Jim Francisco said. "We've been here the longest."

The restaurant got its start in 1988, opening in a small storefront on Main Street, formerly called Alley Pizza. Sylvia Francisco filled the menu with family recipes and recipes she took from her time working at her aunt's pizza shop on Morse Road.

The popularity of the homemade pasta, pizzas and desserts took off, leading the restaurant to gradually increase its size.

"Little by little, we started expanding the little hole in the wall that Alley was," Jim Francisco said.

The Franciscos began by adding 50 seats, then a 25-seat party room. Last year, they expanded to 115 seats and created a prominent entrance on State Street.

In its 22 years in Uptown, Pasquale's also has seen Westerville make the transition from being a traditionally "dry" town to one where alcohol can legally be sold and served.

The restaurant began serving beer and wine in 2006, though Francisco said he was hesitant to seek a liquor option for his business.

"I thought we'd lose our family business by putting beer and wine in," he said.

The result, however, was that Pasquale's began seeing its typical family crowd around 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. with a later crowd of people looking to enjoy drinks with their dinners around 8 p.m.

"It's still kept that family atmosphere but gave us another influx of later customers," he said.

Francisco said he believes Pasquale's family atmosphere has kept the restaurant a success in Uptown.

His own family plays a big part in creating that atmosphere. Though the restaurant began as an outlet for his wife, Francisco began working there after he retired, and their two children, Lisa and Anthony, have become active in restaurant operations.

"The family's been with it the whole way," he said. "Now I have grandkids busing tables, so I guess it's going to stay a family restaurant."

The resurgence of foot traffic to Uptown, for which Francisco gives credit to the city, the Westerville Visitors and Convention Bureau and the Westerville Uptown Merchants Association, also has helped the restaurant.

"You could see Uptown Westerville was turning into a nonentity. There just wasn't a lot of Uptown traffic," he said. "All of a sudden, it just became a diverse Uptown market, which creates traffic."

And of course, he said, his wife, Sylvia, gets much of the credit for the restaurant's success, since it's her cooking that keeps customers coming back.

"She still makes, to this day: The pasta's homemade, the sauce is made every day, the meatballs are homemade, the bread is homemade," Francisco said. "And people know, they can taste the difference."

Read the article in ThisWeek online, just click here.

Read Part 2 in this series, Encircle, 30 & 34 N. State, click here.

Read Part 1 in this series, Amish Originals Furniture Co., click here.

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