Pantuso’s reopens at Clarion Inn
Many Grand Junctionites have followed their beloved Pantuso’s Restaurant wherever it might be located — downtown, at Crossroads Blvd., on Horizon, in a hotel. It doesn’t matter, they’ll be there.
After a three-year break, Chris Blackburn has reacquired the restaurant’s well-known name and he reopened last week at the Clarion Inn, 755 Horizon Dr., in the former space occupied by Coco’s Restaurant.
“This place has been such an institution,” Blackburn said. “I’m thrilled to be back in the business again.”
Blackburn said he was taking the restaurant back to its traditional roots, as a family-friendly and more casual dining experience.
He’s taking the menu back a few decades, too. It will reflect the casual Italian food once served at the Crossroads location in the mid-‘80s. There will be a soup and salad to accompany the fresh pasta and other dinner entrees.
As a result of a more casual dining experience, the prices will be lower too. “We’re going back to the more traditional and family-friendly atmosphere,” he said.
Also finding their way back are staff members who have spent years working under the Pantuso’s name, such as Dave Madison. He worked as a cook for 14 years in the previous locations, learning to cook from Emma McCord, who learned to cook from Mary Pantuso herself. He has been joined by Donna Ray, head bartender at the restaurant for 14 years. Many of the wait staff and other positions have been filled by previous Pantuso’s employees. “They have just come back to be a part of it like it once was,” Blackburn said.
Currently, the restaurant is only open from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily. “We’re just starting to get our feet wet again,” Blackburn said, adding that his staff would have to learn how to accommodate the needs of the Clarion Inn customers as well by offering banquet and room service amenities too.
In the spring, Blackburn anticipates serving lunch and dinner.
So far, the response has been very positive from the public. “Nine out of ten people have been thanking us for coming back,” Blackburn said.