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Odd couple: Longtime pasta eatery now serving barbecue as well
Jean Pierre Trapezio, of US. Foods, makes his deliveries Monday afternoon past the stacked hickory at Rick’s Smokin’ Pig. Owner Rick Shaw has merged his barbecue restaurant with Pasquale’s on Riverside Drive.

The smokehouse behind Pasquale’s restaurant should be the first clue. Then, if you follow your nose, you’ll find out quickly that more than pasta is on the menu.

The longtime Italian restaurant off Riverside Drive in Gainesville is now offering barbecue, thanks to a merger with Rick’s Smokin’ Pig, which, until January, had served up meals from its eatery off Ga. 53/John W. Morrow Jr. Parkway.

But the menu addition was made only recently, as Rick’s Smokin’ Pig owner, Rick Shaw, just got his smokehouse up and running last week.

In the meantime, Shaw has discovered he has had to reassure loyal Pasquale’s customers that we “plan to keep the pizza bar and salad bar, and do the same thing that Pasquale’s was doing. We’re just adding barbecue.”

Even during a brief interview with Shaw on Monday morning, a woman knocked on the front door and asked about the restaurant’s status. Pasquale’s has been open since the early to mid 1970s, with the same owner — Boma Pennebaker — running it from 1980 until January.

“You guys don’t serve pasta anymore?” Skylar Arriagada asked.

“Yeah, we sure do,” Shaw said. “And barbecue.”

Relief washed across Arriagada’s face. “Oh, I almost cried. OK, thank you.”

“I’ve been coming here for years,” she said after speaking with Shaw.

The Rick’s Smokin’ Pig sign outside the restaurant disturbed her at first, so the Pasquale’s superfan had to get more details.

“It’s my favorite place,” Arriagada said. “I love it so much.”

And for those wondering, even though Rick’s has a sign out front, the Pasquale’s name will stay in place for now, Shaw said.

The marriage of barbecue and pasta has been in the works for months. Eventually, Shaw, a Gainesville native, was able to secure a lease-purchase agreement from Pennebaker on the property and the business, Shaw said.

Health issues led to the 65-year-old Pennebaker giving up reins on the restaurant.

“My work at the restaurant had been minimal for the last two or three years,” said Pennebaker, who lives in South Hall. “The restaurant business is very taxing physically, with the hours and so forth.”

And so, “it was also an issue of me just trying to spend some more time with my family,” he said.

Pennebaker said his one regret, before leaving Pasquale’s, was that he couldn’t spend more time saying goodbye to loyal customers.

But he’s confident the business will do fine in Shaw’s hands.

“It’s a little bit strange to combine barbecue and Italian, but whatever works,” Pennebaker said. “You see fast-food (businesses) do things like that all the time, so I think (Pasquale’s) can be very successful.”

Shaw said he likes the location off Riverside because passers-by can see both the smokehouse and the smoke swirling from it a lot easier than at the old site.

“And it’s a smell that’s very unique, and when people smell it, they know there’s a barbecue restaurant nearby,” he said.

Shaw isn’t planning any big changes to the building’s appearance, which hasn’t changed much in the

decades of operating.

“We’ve cleaned it up a little bit and moved some of the Italian pictures out and some of the pig pictures in,” Shaw said, with a laugh.