Chris Bianco is a passionate person. Unfortunately, due to a number of cited obstacles, Bianco and his team were not able to translate that passion into an experience that captures the essence of what Pizzeria Bianco is all about at the downtown Tucson location at 272 E. Congress St.
“I’m incredibly proud of our team, our farmers and purveyors, and the food we put out” said Bianco. “But just like any relationship, sometimes you have to ask if it’s good for me, too.”
While neither Chris Bianco nor Bianco Group Managing Partner Seth Sulka find any fault or place any blame on building owner and landlord Scott Stiteler, they both cited a number of challenges with the space. Some of those challenges include a lack of a back of the house, shared bathrooms with nightclub neighbor Playground, no back patio or area for deliveries, an oven exhaust that occasionally affected Playground’s rooftop, and customer difficulty in finding parking.
In addition to the location challenges, an option in the lease allowing for an early exit at the two year mark heavily influenced the decision to shutter instead of seamlessly transition to a new space, something the team had been seeking for some time.
“We had an option in our lease – a mutual agreement to see if we were a good fit for each other,” said Bianco. “What took so long was I was hopeful we’d find that right home, but it just didn’t happen. It’s humbling.”
Bianco Group Managing Partner Seth Sulka said that the organization is 100 percent committed to Tucson and to finding a location that allows for the “full bore” Bianco experience. That may mean building from the ground up. In the meantime, he assured that they are still available for special events, catering, and festivals.
“We’ve looked at 18 to 20 properties to try and find a space where we could make a seamless transition,” said Sulka. “But it didn’t happen. We’ve been thinking about this for a long time and decided that this was the right move.”
Lack of business or an audience was not cited as one of the issues that led to the closure.
“The audience is there,” said Sulka. “We know we connected and saw the response. I think it was some of the other obstacles that got in the way. Even when we knew the space wasn’t perfect we still went to a 7 day lunch and dinner a little after a year from opening.”
When the restaurant originally opened, it was for dinner only and for 6 nights out of 7.
Some kitchen staff that wanted to stick with the Bianco Group have been relocated to Phoenix, some have been assisted with finding positions in Tucson. Front of the house staff, Sulka explained, tended to be more transient and work numerous jobs.
At the end of the day, Bianco is most interested in affecting change in how food is thought about and is grateful of the relationships he’s forged in Tucson and cited some of the recent work he’s done with White Sonora Wheat producer BKW Farms in Marana.
“Tucson is an incredibly special place and I’m committed to making it work,” said Bianco.” The relationships I have with people are everything. I hope the people of Tucson know that I didn’t come here to take, but to give.”
Now the group will focus on what that perfect fit is and where to put it.
For more information, including event booking, catering, and more visit pizzeriabianco.com.