DiFranco’s is a small Italian restaurant that uses simple, seasonal ingredients from local Colorado farms to make food just like grandma used to make back in Italy. From the scratch-made chicken parm sandwich (with Denver’s best red sauce) to the penne with prosciutto vodka sauce, the tiny Golden Triangle café might seem unassuming and low-key from the outside, but the line of hungry people out the door on a Tuesday night proves that DiFranco’s has clearly found its niche.
Ryan DiFranco grew up in a family where there was always a pot of sauce on the stove and the love of fresh Italian food was unmistakable. He had worked in the restaurant industry for several years before relocating to Denver to work as the bar manager at Hillstone. While living in the Beauvallon, he noticed how much first floor retail space was available and began making plans to bring his spin on Italian food to Denver – a chef-driven, quick-service restaurant that focused on simple and seasonal cuisine. In May 2012, he opened DiFranco’s with recipes that were passed down from his Italian grandmother, mother and aunt, as well as creations from his staff. The simplicity and craftsmanship of the house-made pastas (including the fettuccine served with Italian sausage, kale and a delicious artichoke cilantro pesto) brought immediate credibility to the first-time restaurateur. Ryan’s heavy emphasis on sourcing local, organic ingredients also differentiates DiFranco’s from other establishments in the area and keeps customers coming back.
As a business school graduate, Ryan was well aware of the essentials of starting a business. He was also acutely aware of the pitfalls and difficulties he would face as he worked on his plan to bring his vision to life in the city of Denver. With a great location in the Golden Triangle and an eager staff, DiFranco worked tirelessly in the months after opening to spread the word and build a loyal customer base. One of his biggest hurdles during that time was managing his
hands-on involvement in the restaurant operations during the day then finding time in the evening to tackle the books. He spent hours upon hours with an Xcel spreadsheet, manually entering sales information into his QuickBooks Online account. Clearly this was not an effective use of his time.