Sunset Grill and Pizza adjusts as a new restaurant in Amherst

By Stuart Foster

Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)
(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

Almost five months after its opening, the Sunset Grill and Pizza on Fearing Street is trying to embed itself in the Amherst community, especially in the Southwest Residential Area.

Owner Rebecca Casagrande, who bought and began renovating the site after the former tenant, College Pizza, had their food establishment license removed, said she wanted to establish her new restaurant as a good neighbor to both University of Massachusetts students and community members in the town.

“The hardest thing for me has just been coming forward from the place it was before to a really reputable place,” Casagrande said.

The Sunset Grill and Pizza has been working hard to get the word out about the restaurant, distributing 3,000 menus in dormitories the past few weeks and handing out smoothie samples on Fearing Street, according to Casagrande.

Casagrande said that their main customer base over the summer was workers at UMass, so with school back in session they are trying to expand to the students.

Casagrande added that they planned on offering a curbside program soon which would feature employees delivering pickup orders to customers in their cars outside of the restaurant.

“We’re going to offer that Monday to Friday,” Casagrande said, adding the intention was for UMass workers to be able to pick up their orders quickly after their shifts ended.

The Sunset Grill and Pizza is currently not open on Mondays and Tuesdays, and offers service from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday, 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturday and 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.

Casagrande said that while making new customers aware of new restaurants is always the most difficult part of opening, Sunset Grill and Pizza has attracted faithful customers from the Stockbridge School of Agriculture fraternity house Alpha Tau Gamma, the UMass hockey players in the area and some off-campus students living on Fearing Street.

“We just want to have a nice, safe place for people to hang out,” Casagrande said.

Casagrande is also trying to host more events in the restaurant, such as the Fearing Street Festival this Saturday. The event will have officers from the Amherst Police Department and UMass Police Department providing a set amount of food, along with UMass Dining and Baby Berk.

The festival, which will take place during the upcoming New England Patriots game, will feature a broadcast of the game along with an inflatable jousting event and bungee run.

“What we are aiming to do in this event is to create an event that is friendly and fun in an untraditional way,” said APD Officer William Laramee.

Laramee said he thought the event could help the Sunset Grill and Pizza as a new business, in addition to providing a better environment for students and community members to interact with police officers.

Casagrande was also excited for the Saturday UMass football game at McGuirk Stadium, and offered a special deal.

“If UMass wins Saturday, we’re doing buy a slice, get a slice free.”

The menu of the Sunset Grill and Pizza mixes favorite items for pizza places such as slices, grinders and french fries with more unfamiliar meals, like taquitos and fried dough. Casagrande said they will also begin serving wings this Sunday.

The Sunset Grill and Pizza currently offers a set of deals for its customers, such as giving $5 off a meal on a customer’s birthday and a 10 percent discount for students. Casagrande said they also offer very quick delivery times.

“We are really trying to keep deliver times under half an hour.”

Casagrande is also working with UMass Dining on ways to best offer food to students on meal plans, whether off campus or YCMP.

While the store still sells tobacco, Casagrande said they no longer sell pipes and water pipes as College Pizza used to. Casagrande emphasized that she wanted her restaurant to be a respected part of the community and helpful to students, and said she had helped take care of a few people visiting Amherst late at night.

Casagrande also said that the process of running the restaurant was exhausting, and she was often tired as a result of working after having back surgery done over the summer.

“I’m here because I need to be here,” she said.

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