Your Style: Pasquale Presa
Pasquale Presa says his restaurant, Pasquale’s Neighborhood Pizzeria, is a labor of love and an expression of his passion for Italian cuisine, his family and Rochester.
Presa, who opened the restaurant in 2016 at the corner of First Avenue and Fifth Street Southwest, explains that it represents all that has been and is important to him.
“I was born in Bari, Italy, in 1973,” Presa said. “I came to New York City with my mom and dad and three brothers when I was 7.”
Noting that his family worked in the masonry industry, he says, “I am the only one to be in the culinary arts.” His cooking interest, he says, grew out of his mother carrying on the cooking traditions of southern Italy in their home and also the cuisine and especially pizza found in the Bronx and New York’s Little Italy. That led him to the Culinary Institute of America in Manhattan.
First coming to Rochester as executive chef at the Kahler and then leaving to head restaurants at the Kalahari Resorts in Wisconsin Dells, Presa says he wanted to make his way back here permanently. That is where his neighborhood pizzeria came in. Now he and his wife and their three children — two sons, 15 and 12, and a daughter, 9 — consider Rochester their permanent and happy home.
How do you describe your style?
Conservative. I am a very outgoing person, but my style is conservative.
A little background?
My family, we are all about keeping close and tight. Unity. My style represents that. Materialistic, we are not. The most important thing in life is to work hard and provide for family. My style is a reflection of who we are. It is about function. Comfort. Purpose.
Does that go back to your childhood?
Yes. I am the youngest of four brothers. I came to this country in 1981 with my mom and dad and my three brothers. We lived in New York City. We had a two-bedroom apartment. All of the boys were in one room. We shared everything. We shared a wardrobe. I had everything passed down to me. And I learned about need versus want. We were more blessed than some. And my style today replicates the importance of being practical and us feeling good about what we had.
What clothing most represents that?
In warm weather, I wear shorts and T-shirts. A baseball cap. Crocs or sneakers. Very comfortable as well as practical. At Thursdays on First, I want to feel comfortable at my stand. If you feel comfortable, then people around you do. That’s what represents me. What’s practical to me is what allows me to do my job. Making people feel comfortable under me and my brand.
Do you find clothing locally?
I shop at Kohl’s and Old Navy. I’m just normal. It’s just who I am. It’s normal and that is representative of who I am and what I try to give to people here.
Do you in any way miss dressing up during the workday?
When I had to wear suits, it drove me crazy. Comfort represents me. Not being dressed up. As a culinarian, I can do my work better in practical and comfortable clothes.
Just have to ask, because Italy is known for its finely made shoes, if you have any.
I do have some, but I don’t wear them because they’re not comfortable. I wear crocs all day long or sneakers. They are comfortable and more “me.”
Do you have any items you family laughs about?
My kids give me shirts. One might have a saying like “Best Bald Dad.” We all laugh about those. They also laugh and say, “Dad, how can you wear the same style every day?” I say it’s because I feel comfortable! They laugh, but that can’t change the culture of who I am.
Has your style taken on a more Minnesota look in any way?
I guess I think about, like they say, ’When in Rome, do as the Romans do!” I love this town so much. I feel like I had to work a little to blend into the climate and culture. But when I look at a picture, I am not out of place. I never try to represent myself as from New York or that I grew up on the East Coast. I think I blend in and always trying not to stand out.
What do you hope to pass on to your children about style?
That it’s not about the label. It’s about the heart and generosity behind the person. Behind your brand. It’s about helping others be comfortable. My children are representative of what my wife and I represent.
Be genuine. That’s what it’s about. Be who you are.