Disregarding the idea that one doesn't mess with a good thing, Bobby Stuckey, co-founder of Frasca Hospitality, decided to take the popular Pizzeria Locale in Boulder, Colo., and completely rebrand it. The new Pizzeria Alberico is in the same location as the former pizza place, and showcasing a similar menu.
Normally, said Stuckey, "You don't want to take a restaurant that's going great and turn it around, but we did and that's what we went with, and we have been really happy with how it came out."
The original Pizzeria Locale opened in Boulder in 2011, but was designed in 2009. The motif spoke to that era's trend of white subway tiles, black highlights and stark lighting. It was bright, shiny, and, said Stuckey, reminded him a lot of a restaurant one finds in airports today.
"It was a very distinctive space for that time period, and it's been great, but after 12 years of business and a lot of wear and tear, it was time for a remodel," Stuckey said over the phone. "When we came up with the idea we thought, 'are we brave enough to rebrand it?'"
Turns out they were, and Pizzeria Alberico officially launched in February. Instead of black and white, now the floor, banquets and walls have a warm brown-gold hue. The oven and brand color is a bright cornflower blue and the whole space feels cozier and more conducive to hunkering down for the night with a table full of Neapolitan-style pizza, cocktails, and a plate of fried mushrooms.
While some items were added to the lineup, the menu mostly remains the same as before, mainly, said Stuckey, because they couldn't add another hood or means to cook. The wood-fired pizza oven still remains the star. Fresh Italian salads run $12 to $17; various pizzas are $16 to $24 each; and a salumi plate is $24. The cocktail list did expand, as well as the bar as whole. Wine still remains as a top feature thanks to Stuckey's sommelier background, but cocktails such as the frozen Paper Plane ($12) and Black Manhattan ($15) add fun twists to the options.
The name is a nod to Dick Alberico, Stuckey's father-in-law, who he touts as the whole reason his family ended up in Colorado. Before the move and opening Boulder's Frasca Food and Wine in August of 2004 with his partner, chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, Stuckey worked in Yountville, Calif., at The French Laundry. It was there that he said he received solid hospitality training and the skills to launch what is now one of the Centennial State's most prestigious restaurant groups.
The rebranding wasn't purely driven as an homage. After deciding to modernize and refresh the space it became apparent that all aspects of Pizzeria Locale, from the fast-casual spinoff locations to the website to the marketing materials, were tied together.
"When we designed Locale, we designed everything from the business card to the oven to be this look. We couldn't unwind it without going full-on," said Stuckey. "As an owner, your obligation when doing a design element is not just about will it look good, but will it still look great 13 years from now."
Now, Pizzeria Alberico stands alone, a distinct operation from the first Pizzeria Locale, and the five fast-casual units around the Denver metro area that are keeping their original name.
Stuckey said some customers are surprised by the change and some long for the nostalgia of the old spot, but he said the rebrand has helped clarify the confusion that sometimes happened between the original Pizzeria Locale, which was a full-service sit-down restaurant just like Alberico, and the fast-casual locations that have a totally different vibe and business model. Those five branches still have Stuckey and Mackinnon-Patterson as equity partners, but they have retained their majority ownership of Pizzeria Alberico.
"Now they can both be in their lane individually and do great things," Stuckey said.
A renovation like this isn't cheap. In fact, Stuckey said that after opening restaurants for 25 years this is probably the most expensive time to remodel. But he thinks it's worth it in the end.
"We are committed to the long haul, and to be committed you have to reinvest, because you will never increase menu prices [enough] to keep up, but that's part of the restaurant world," he added. "I stand by my decision to invest a lot in the next 12 years, and it's exciting to think of restaurants in 10- to 12-year increments. Most don't make it to five years."
But this time, he added, the design will be timeless, so hopefully they don't have redo the whole space again.