three friends join forces to own a lincoln pizza parlor
Since 1982, Lincoln has been treated to the homespun recipes of Dick and Diane Burner’s grandmother. The dough and sauces are guarded secrets, made in traditional ways brought over from Italy, but the atmosphere is a uniquely American twist on the Italian trattoria, with a Midwestern flair thrown into the mix. Where you might expect the American take on Italian décor influenced by New York pizzerias, you’ll find a modest approach. The focus is on the food and the family spirit, which is really what Italian food is all about.
What drew Piezano’s new owners to the restaurant was more than an investment, but a chance to participate in a Lincoln tradition. As young men in the Phi Kappa Theta fraternity at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Colby Honke, Ryan Riley and Matt Quintero could hardly know that they would one day own stake in a family restaurant. For Riley and Honke, who both have day jobs, Piezano’s is the first stepping stone on their long path toward entrepreneurship. For Quintero, someone who loves few things more than pizza, the dream of owning his own restaurant has become a delightful reality.
While all that sounds like a “happily ever after,” the road to owning Piezano’s hasn’t been easy for these three. They began looking for an opportunity long before they were aware Piezano’s was for sale. “We checked out other listings, but we never found that fit,” said Honke. It was when Rene Rademacher, Brokerage Principal with The Firm, mentioned the Piezano’s opportunity that Honke and Riley had their lightbulb moment.
"Honke and Riley knew then that this was the perfect restaurant to invest in. If Quintero loved and trusted it, they would trust him to run it."
“We contacted Matt [Quintero], who just a couple of days before had mentioned that if he were to open a restaurant, he would want one just like Piezano’s,” said Honke. Quintero, who had worked as a server and Assistant General Manager at another Lincoln favorite, had grown to love Piezano’s over a summer-long experience. Each week, Quintero and a group of pizza lovers went on a “Pizza Walkabout” and tasted the menus of Lincoln pizzerias to experience the local flavor. He was by far most impressed with the taste and the atmosphere of Piezano’s. Honke and Riley knew then that this was the perfect restaurant to invest in. If Quintero loved and trusted it, then they would trust Quintero to run it.
Riley and Honke, who plan to expand their investment portfolio for years to come, are part of an entrepreneurial community “of creative types with a variety of different products.” Many of their friends are “doing entrepreneurial things,” and investing in a restaurant is a learning experience that gets their creative juices flowing. The three pals spend around 15 to 20 hours each week discussing the back-office operations of Piezano’s, and dreaming up how to imprint their mark on the restaurant without erasing its identity. “Piezano’s is a 35-year-old Lincoln tradition, and we don’t want to mess with that,” said Honke.
When Honke and Riley asked Quintero to join them, they wanted to “work in a restaurant with generations of customers who love the food and atmosphere,” and that’s exactly what Piezano’s delivers. Quintero’s love of the place and years in the industry give him an expertise that has made their transition all the easier. They’ve also benefited from the fact that everything is already in place and runs like clockwork. On the day the three officially became the new owners, “Piezano’s opened at 11 o’clock,” said Honke, “and we met at 5 p.m. to introduce ourselves to the staff.” It also helped that previous owner, Greg Friesen, was on hand for the first few weeks to ease the staff into working with their new management. The three agreed to not change much right away, but they do plan on adding lunch hours, a couple of new items to the menu, and rotating beer selections.
In the end, Piezano’s seems to have become a home for three young men who are “exceptionally proud to own something with a rich history.” Passion is a large part of a good investment for Honke, Riley and Quintero, and makes it worth their while. Much like the Italian recipes that differentiate Piezano’s from the cookie cutter options out there, the journey and tradition of a place is important to the success it sees down the road.
The Firm Deal Review
Reason for Purchase: Investment
Financing: First National Bank
Days on the Market: 93
Buyers: Three fraternity brothers