About the author: Ryan Cardarella is a freelance writer who recently moved to Rochester after spending 12 years in Milwaukee.
Since his first restaurant job as an 11-year-old boy in New York City, Pasquale Presa has always had a passion for cooking. Presa, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, opened Pasquale’s Neighborhood Pizzeria, at 130 5th St. SW, on November 18th to demonstrate that passion and provide Rochester pizza lovers with “classic, simple ingredients and flavors” and a traditional slice of Little Italy. The pizzeria offers authentic New York-style pizzas and calzones, as well as a separate counter for coffee drinks and Italian bakery and pastry items.
Presa brings an extensive culinary background to the new business, having led restaurants and hotel food and beverage operations in Italy and across the country, most recently as executive chef for the Kahler Grand and International Hotel in Rochester. Presa relished his role with Kahler, citing the opportunity to make visitors to Mayo Clinic feel at home through his food and looks forward to establishing that same feeling of comfort at Pasquale’s.
“People visiting town often get really good news, or unfortunately some bad news, and I want to make them feel comfortable while they are here,” Presa said.
The vision of the restaurant really came together within the last year for Presa, who identified a family-friendly neighborhood gathering place as something he felt he could bring to the city. “I love to bring people together, and love to see our counter bring kids, bring families to gather,” Presa said. “It brings me back to some of the happiest moments in my life.”
While he is presently focused on helping the restaurant get its proverbial feet underneath itself and keep up with high demand, Presa looks forward to finding new ways to connect with the community through his business. His vision includes outdoor patio seating, pasta dishes and other grab-and-go items for customers, additional catering services, and street festivals during the summer months that will help to bring a neighborhood with a growing number of transplants together.
Citing the city’s continued growth and the opportunity that the presence of Mayo Clinic provides, Presa is also optimistic that Rochester’s business community can continue to evolve, grow, and thrive—if it can embrace change. Additionally, he is excited to join an emerging downtown restaurant culture that he hopes can help put Rochester “on the map” from a culinary standpoint, something he believes is necessary to attract and keep people in the city.
“We need to continue to think bigger. This is a special place to live, and we need to take on the challenge of cultivating a sense of community here,” Presa said. “It is easy to be a bit complacent and continue to do things the way they have been done for many years, but I think that change is good. It’s hard, but it’s ultimately beneficial. We can do this!”