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Pasquale’s Pizzeria expands distribution with Hy-Vee thanks to family business back in Italy

Pasquale's Pizzeria dry food products and frozen pizza now are available at any Hy-Vee location across America. Owner Pasquale Presa struck an agreement with the grocery chain in September 2022.

Pasquale's Items at Hy-Vee
Pasquale Presa, owner of Pasquale's Neighborhood Pizzeria, with some of the items that can be found in Hy-Vee stores. Presa is photographed Friday, Sept. 30, 2022, in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — Six years ago when Pasquale Presa came to Rochester and opened his Pizzeria, he was just happy to be working behind the counter serving delicious New York-style pizza to the people of Rochester.

Now, Presa has entered a whole new realm of business. On Sept. 1, 2022, Presa came into agreement with Hy-Vee to have all his dry food products distributed to all 285 Hy-Vee locations across eight states.

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“I never thought I would be in the retail business,” said Presa. “It's a commitment to have a connection with our buyers that really believe in your product and that they stand behind your product.”

The partnership with Hy-Vee has been two years in the making for Presa. Just this May, he and Hy-Vee came to an agreement to distribute his frozen pizzas at their stores. With all dry food products now available on store shelves, Presa’s business is having its biggest customer outreach he has ever seen.

“I'm getting my friends from all around saying, ‘I see your olive oil in Kansas City, Maple Grove, etc.’ Being able to provide the best quality out there is the most rewarding thing for me,” said Presa.

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Pasquale's Items at Hy-Vee
Items from Pasquale's Neighborhood Pizzeria that can be found at Hy-Vee stores. The items are photographed Friday, Sept. 30, 2022, in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Having a larger scale distribution for Pasquale’s products has had some growing pains for Presa. All of his products originate from Grumo Appula in the province of Bari, Italy. There Presa’s brother, Sebastiano Presa, operates making the food, packing and shipping it to the United States where it finally lands in Rochester to be served at Pasquale’s.

Now with Hy-Vee as a partner distributing these products on their shelves, some of the orders are either shipped to Minneapolis or Des Moines before Rochester to reach Hy-Vee distributors and stores. The whole process of shipping the foods from Grumo Appula to Rochester typically takes 45-50 days, according to Presa.

Presa said he and his brother are seeing benefits from the import and export scene as it has grown with Hy-Vee.

“The best part about the whole import/export is that we have boots on the ground here and my brother's on the ground in Italy. He goes to the factories, he creates these relationships that are very, very personable because it's in our region." Presa said. "They know our family; they also see me as a culinarian. I want to represent our town, I want to give back to our town."

Presa said the ramping up of the business has allowed the brothers to start giving back to different charities in their small town back in Italy.

"Now we're able to have small businesses in Italy, and never thought that could ever come to the American dream of exporting," he said. "So here we are able to do that too. We're both fulfilling that dream.”

Pasquale's Items at Hy-Vee
Pasquale Presa, owner of Pasquale's Neighborhood Pizzeria, shows pallets of items destined for Hy-Vee stores at his warehouse space Friday, Sept. 30, 2022, in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

The partnership with Hy-Vee has also seen growth at Pasquale’s Pizzeria as Presa hired two more managers to free up more of his time with the distribution of his products to retail. Presa is also using this freed-up time to generate more business partnerships both in the Rochester community and nationally to give the “best quality foods” around.

“I am able to manage more of the retail and wholesale division because it's all relationships now as well. As a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, a lot of the friends, coworkers and people I worked with from all over the place. As we stay in contact, they look at what you do on a site like LinkedIn, and people are asking, 'Hey, I'd love to pick your brain, I'd love to hire you as a consultant, because I want to do this as well,'” said Presa.

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Presa is hopeful of more retail opportunities in the future but is grateful for the start in Hy-Vee and bringing more of his “best quality foods” to new people. Until then, Presa is hopeful to hear more feedback from people in Rochester and across the country on his products.

Pasquale's Items at Hy-Vee
Items from Pasquale's Neighborhood Pizzeria that can be found at Hy-Vee stores. The items are photographed Friday, Sept. 30, 2022, in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
Pasquale's Items at Hy-Vee
Items from Pasquale's Neighborhood Pizzeria that can be found at Hy-Vee stores. The items are photographed Friday, Sept. 30, 2022, in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
Pasquale's Items at Hy-Vee
Pasquale Presa, owner of Pasquale's Neighborhood Pizzeria, with some of the items that can be found in Hy-Vee stores. Presa is photographed Friday, Sept. 30, 2022, in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
Pasquale's Items at Hy-Vee
Items from Pasquale's Neighborhood Pizzeria that can be found at Hy-Vee stores. The items are photographed Friday, Sept. 30, 2022, in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Theodore Tollefson is a business reporter for the Post Bulletin. He is originally from Burnsville, Minn., and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a bachelor's degree in journalism in December 2020. Readers can reach Theodore at 507-281-7420 or ttollefson@postbulletin.com.
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