MOORESTOWN—From the day Passariello’s Pizzeria and Italian Kitchen first opened in 1996, its doors were filled with a stream of people—parents darting in and out to pick up pizzas, sports teams gathering after practices, families taking a break from their own kitchens, business lunches, celebrations, and after-work get-togethers. The constant procession of customers indicated that the bright, cheerful restaurant was just what Moorestown needed, and it has endured because Passariello’s owners are committed to doing things just right.
For founders Pasquale, Vincenzo, Giovanni, and Sakari Passariello, the restaurant is not just a business or a job, it is their passion—and it shows. In an industry in which 60 percent of restaurants fail in their first year and 80 percent don’t make it past five years, Passariello’s will mark its 20th anniversary in Moorestown the week of September 12. Moorestown Business Association is presenting Passariello’s with a Spotlight Award to applaud the restaurant’s success as it celebrates this important milestone.
Along with offering a large variety of fresh, delicious food in short order, a unique food service concept sets Passariello’s apart from traditional pizzeria’s. Instead of a wait staff, customers can see and order everything they might want to eat at different food stations. Pasquale, who came up with the idea, loves to tell how it came about.
The native of Monte di Procida, Italy (near Naples) started his food journey in the galley of a European cargo ship and followed opportunities to build his skills in different kitchens on America’s East Coast. He spent the next chapter of his career managing quality control in Scotto pizza outlets all over the country, and eventually bought several Scotto franchises—the last one located in South Jersey’s Echelon Mall. It was there that he developed his idea for a food court style restaurant where patrons could walk around and choose from different categories of menu items. When the property that would eventually become Passariello’ became available in Moorestown, he and his brothers jumped at the opportunity to build Pasquale’s dream business.
The timing was perfect—Moorestown embraced the fun, new family-friendly place, and 12 years later they opened a second location in Voorhees. Currently the Passariellos are looking to expand further, but only if they can do it their way—and they are very particular. It is no accident that the organization runs like clockwork. “Each of the four brothers plays an integral role in the family business,” explains the company’s director Ted Barber.
“Pasquale is the visionary with an instinct for planning and design who developed the overall character of Passariellos. Giovanni is the culinarian, with a fastidious regard to purchasing and management systems, as well as having a keen eye on continuously upgrading and improving the operation. Vincenzo oversees the operational end of the bustling business, including the product flow and staff; and Sakari is the landscape architect and problem solver who keeps an eye on theming, decoration and the impeccable design of the interior and exterior of the business.” The one element that is common amongst the family members, Barber says, is an intense pride in everything they do and a relentless commitment to excellence.
This vigorous dedication to perfection shows in the details, and nothing is done halfway. In many restaurants, especially those as busy as this, the booths are bolted down—but not at Passariello’s. Every stick of furniture is moved each week so the floor and hard to reach areas can be scrupulously cleaned. There is a staff member who spends over three hours every day seeing to the exterior plantings and cleaning. Another is hand-cutting the chicken in the kitchen, while someone else is making certain the prep area is spotless. Food safety is paramount. Barber, who has worked on major food service projects throughout the world, says he seldom sees this level of detail by independent operators within this casual dining sector.
He also points out that family members aren’t always the best partners, but says, “There is something special about this family.” The hard working and family centric culture instilled in the children from an early age by the family patriarch, Clemente Passariello, has shaped the way the Passariello children conduct themselves to this day. Clemente Passariello, who also worked in the restaurant before he passed away in 2007, was a fixture of smiles and pride of what his family built. His five children, including daughter Marianna, respect each other and always do what’s best for their families and the business. Their values are evident in everything they do.” As Pasquale stresses, it is not about making money—it’s about doing things right and putting the family name on something they are proud of.
In 2009, with an eye toward gradual expansion in which the family could remain the guiding force, a branding company was engaged to fine tune Passariello’s image. A bright new logo emerged, along with the formulation of the company’s core attributes that the brothers believe define their business: Tradition. Freshness. Informal. Fast. The Passariello family treasures its customers. “They don’t have to come here, but it is an honor every time someone walks through our door.” Says Pasquale. “It is important to us that our customers trust us.”
Along with being a destination of great food and an appealing meeting place for the past 20 years, the restaurant has greatly enhanced the appearance of Main Street. The family also consistently supports the community by supplying Hero cards to the local police, fire, and EMT members. The Passariellos support township youth sports teams, schools, Moorestown graduates, events, and many more noteworthy causes. The MBA has awarded Passariello’s a Spotlight Award for the flagship restaurant’s long-term success in Moorestown, and its role in helping to make it a better place to visit and live.