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Pasta Pomodoro to revamp brand in home market

SAN FRANCISCO Pasta Pomodoro, a regional full-service chain owned in part by Wendy’s International Inc., is shortening its name to Pomodoro at 25 units in its home market here as part of an update that also involves menu changes and the adoption of a new wine program.

The chain’s 18 units elsewhere operate under the name Pomodoro Cucina Italiana. Eventually all will adopt the shorter Pomodoro branding, as well as the expanded menu and new wine service, said Matthew Cross, vice president of marketing. All of the chain’s units are in California or Arizona.

The chain was founded in 1994 by chef Adriano Paganini, who sold an interest in the brand to Wendy’s in 2002, during the burger giant’s diversification into the fast-casual sector. Wendy’s described the Italian brand at the time as fast casual despite its offer of full service. Most fast-casual concepts offer limited service, whereby patrons order at a counter, take a seat, and have the meal brought to them by a staffer.

Pomodoro is the only diversification that Wendy’s has retained from those days. The Dublin, Ohio-based chain holds a 29-percent stake in the Italian chain, though analysts expect the interest to be spun off as Wendy’s explores a sale and other strategic alternatives. It already has sold off its Baja Fresh Mexican Grill and Cafe Express fast-casual brands and divested its Tim Hortons doughnut chain through a stock-giveaway to Wendy’s shareholders.

Changes to Pomodoro’s menu will include upgraded ingredients, such as Fulton Valley free-range chicken and Niman Ranch beef. Menu additions include several organic salads, two risotto options and the option of substituting organic whole-wheat fusilli for any regular pasta.

Wine choices have been tripled, the company said. A wider range of California and Italian wines will be available in various carafe sizes, along with higher-end wines ranging in price from $25 to $80 per bottle.

Decor upgrades include the use of Italian icons and movie posters. Paganini also plans to implement a “green” strategy that will include minimizing waste through reuse, composting and recycling, and a shift to the use of biodegradable cups and bamboo flooring.

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