Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Sunset Grill and Pizza hopes to fill void following the closing of College Pizza

By Stuart Foster

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(Daily Collegian/Robert Rigo)

(Daily Collegian/Robert Rigo)

In the location of the recently closed College Pizza, a new owner says she is preparing a restaurant with a brand new image to appeal to University of Massachusetts students.

Rebecca Casagrande plans to open Sunset Grill and Pizza this spring, and wants to create a different tone for students at the Fearing Street location.

“I just want students to have a different atmosphere,” said Casagrande, who graduated from UMass in 2000. “It’s super important to me to give the students on campus a really nice place where they can relax.”

After the Amherst Board of Health revoked the license of College Pizza in February due to health concerns, Casagrande thought the location, which is adjacent to the Southwest Residential Area, would be perfect for an establishment to attract students. She said she has always wanted to own a restaurant and has managerial experience working at fast food locations.

Casagrande, who said Sunset Grill and Pizza would focus on serving soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers and pizza, added that she looked at the options available at the Hampshire Dining Common to determine what she could put in her menu.

“I tried to figure out what was missing to have over here,” she said.

Casagrande said that some new additions to the menu would be gourmet grilled cheeses, custom sandwiches made to match customers’ topping preferences and two specialty pizzas each day.

Acknowledging the damaged reputation the location has held among UMass students since the closing of College Pizza, Casagrande said that she and her family were addressing concerns over sanitation and the reliability of the restaurant’s work hours during the repair process.

“We have changed or covered every single surface in this building,” she said. “I can commit to the students as a promise we will be open at the hours we say we’re open.”

Casagrande said that the walls and sink had been completely changed during the repair process and that everything in the building had been scrubbed in bleach.

The culture of the establishment will also change, as Sunset Grill and Pizza will offer customers the option to sit down and eat, with the addition of hiring waiters.

“They’re UMass students, the ones I’ve hired so far,” Casagrande said about the restaurant’s wait staff.

Sunset Grille and Pizza will also carry snack food options, Coca Cola products and Red Bull. Casagrande said that smoothies were being added to the menu as well.

In a change of policy from College Pizza, Sunset Grill and Pizza will not sell tobacco products.  Casagrande said this would create a culture at the establishment she does not want.

She hopes for the restaurant to open by April 15, although a 150-year old ceiling in the back of the building was proving more difficult to repair than initially expected.

“The ceiling is what’s holding us up right now,” she said.

Casagrande said that Sunset Grille and Pizza already has its food establishment license and is only waiting on the Board of Health license, which the restaurant cannot obtain until the entire building is repaired.

Casagrande additionally said that Sunset Grill and Pizza will use fresh, local produce and will offer a large number of gluten free options. Casagrande has a daughter with celiac disease (an autoimmune disease where the ingestion of gluten damages the small intestine), which she attributes to her increased awareness of the importance of gluten free options.

“I understand how to keep things so they don’t get cross-contaminated,” she added.

Sunset Grill and Pizza will look to attract UMass students with affordable prices and guerilla marketing techniques like flyers and word of mouth, she said. As for the name of the restaurant, Casagrande outlined plans to take pictures of sunsets over the Southwest Residential Area and hang them up inside the restaurant.

Stuart Foster can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @Stuart_C_Foster.

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