What happens when a franchise falls apart at the top level, but the brick-and-mortar stores live on? They become Pasquale’s, once an Indianapolis pizza chain that ran aground as a franchise, but the individual businesses carried on as independent pizzerias. There are a handful of them still afloat in the Indianapolis area, and one (located at 1135 E Troy Ave) recently fell into the hands of Tom and Edward Battista, the father-and-son restauranteur duo with hands in Bluebeard, Milktooth, and Amelia’s Bakery. I chatted with the younger Battista on the phone about his plans for the neighborhood pizza joint.
And, like the wise businessmen the Battistas have proven to be in the past, they’re not trying to fix anything that ain’t broke. Or rather, they’re not trying to fix anything that is already pizza. After all, the business has been in continuous operation since 1959, making it a likely candidate for the oldest continuously operating pizza place in Indianapolis.
It’s a delicate balance when you take over a mom-and-pop restaurant where there is history between the locals and the food—and probably none more intimidating than a place with 50 years of history to stand on. Unlike the Battista’s other business, though, they got to skip the hype-building, interest-gathering phase of ownership, thanks to the neighbors.
“We’ve had a lot of good support from the neighborhood. People remember, as kids, coming here on Sundays with their family,” Battista said. And traffic hasn’t slowed with the change in ownership, which is why they’re not planning to make any major moves with the place any time soon.
“We are hesitant to change anything. We want to make everything better, in general, but so far that has consisted mainly of just refining processes,” he said. With a proven track record of successful restaurants under their belt, the challenge of Pasquales will likely not be with making nearby U of I students want pizza, but fine-tuning the business side of things. In fact, it was the recent overhauls of the university’s campus that helped pull the trigger on the purchase when the restaurant became available. Now Battista hopes the rumors of connecting campus to surrounding cultural areas will help bring in more business.
“It’s a really nice campus and it’s growing. We've heard rumors of that bike path being connected to Fountain Square, and we're right off that path, so there's a little upside potential there."
But no matter how many Pacers bikes and fixies crowd the parking lot, don’t head to Pasquale’s looking for a pie suited for the hipster crowd. Battista has no plans to turn it into the next Pizzology.
“People want to know, 'What's the hook? How is it like Bluebeard?' And it really isn't...It's completely separate from Milktooth and Bluebeard and Amelia's."
At the end of the day, Pasquale’s is going to keep doing what they’ve been doing, just a little leaner, faster, and better than they’ve done it before. The end goal is relaxed compared to the other Battista-owned eateries, and the elder Battista is looking simply to create a relaxed neighborhood pizza joint where folks can simply hang out—no concept other than continuing to make great pizza for their friends and neighbors.