Food Scene: Pantuso’s keeps tradition alive in Grand Junction, Colorado |

Food Scene: Pantuso’s keeps tradition alive in Grand Junction, Colorado

Brittany Markert
Chris and Krista Watson are the newest owners of Pantuso’s Ristorante (755 Horizon Dr., Grand Junction). The couple hopes to bring back tradition with original recipes and service — like how the restaurant originally operated in the1950s and 1960s. David Madison, an original chef, continues to produce quality meals steeped in history.
Brittany Markert / | Free Press


WHAT: Pantuso’s Ristorante

WHEN: Daily, 11 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. and 4-10 p.m

WHERE: 755 Horizon Dr., Grand Junction

COST: $$


Chris and Krista Watson, a Grand Junction couple and new owners of Pantuso’s Ristorante, believe strongly in tradition.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to now operate this restaurant,” Krista said. “I have been eating here since I can even remember. My grandma used to take me here for Spumoni ice cream.”

The couple purchased Pantuso’s Ristorante — located at 755 Horizon Dr., in Grand Junction — last August. They also had a baby, Addy, the same month.

According to the Watsons, they saw it as an opportunity to live out their dream — to own and operate a restaurant in Colorado’s Grand Valley.

Since taking over, the couple — along with the restaurant’s staff of 40 locals — strove to make the transition seamless while staying true to Pantuso’s seasoned atmosphere spanning five decades. Favorite menu items remain the same.

The restaurant is open daily from 11 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. and 4-10 p.m.


Grand Junction’s original Pantuso’s — opened in 1958 by Jimmie and Mary Pantuso — was located at 103 N. First St. After several moves and owners, the restaurant settled in its current location at Grand Junction’s Clarion Inn. Chris worked as a chef at Pantuso’s for four years before buying it.

“We hope to bring back the landmark and iconic restaurant it used to be,” he explained.


Pantuso’s menu focuses on “traditional, family dining featuring homemade, savory Italian fare,” both Watsons agreed.

“You get a lot of bang for your buck,” Krista said. “Portions are considerably larger, leaving you satisfied, and probably out the door with a take-home box.”

Dishes include fresh fish flown in every Friday, spaghetti ($9.95-11.95), lasagna ($15.95, enough for two, Chris added) and more. Ravioli ($13.95-15.95) is made fork-pressed and fresh daily by Chris and his production chef, David Madison, who is a longtime employee.

Chris’s favorite dish is the Eggplant Parmigiana Davide, which is described as a lasagna-like pasta dish — layered, hearty and thick. It is served with a side of spaghetti and costs $17.95.

Pantuso’s entrees are served with a side of either minestrone or a salad and fresh baked bread.

“All of our food is made with fresh ingredients and to order,” Chris said.

Steve Faverman, a Pantuso’s bartender, suggests guests sample “Artpop” — an original drink he created. It has vodka, apple pucker, pineapple and apple juice, with a floater of grenadine and garnished with an apple wedge. It costs $8.

Pantuso’s lounge features local wines from Meadery of the Rockies, Colterris and more. It also hosts a happy hour from 4-6 p.m. every day.


Chris grew up as a “Navy brat,” moving around the country with his family. He started cooking as a young boy next to his great grandmother and has been a professional chef for more than 22 years.

Chris met Krista, a Grand Junction native, while living in Durango. The two moved to Grand Junction more than a decade ago and have been here ever since.

Food is definitely a focus of the family, both Watsons agreed.

“I love how it brings everyone together,” Krista said.

When the Watsons aren’t working long hours at the restaurant, they enjoy eating at Dos Hombres (421 Brach Dr., Grand Junction and 3245 I-70 Business Loop, Clifton).

And when Chris is craving comfort food, he asks for chicken-fried steak and green beans.

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