Meet the “Pacinos”:
Serving up pasta, pizza and personality at Banff’s Pacini restaurant
“For the love of food, and the love of people” – that’s the passion behind Pacini, the local-favourite casual dining spot serving up authentic Italian cuisine with a unique Banff twist.
Since launching in July 2016 on-site at Banff’s newest hotel, The Moose Hotel & Suites, the restaurant has made a name for itself amongst a crowd of well-established dining options on bustling Banff Avenue. It’s popular for its pastas, pizzas and alla griglia dishes, served up with warm hospitality, generous portion sizes, and a variety of little “extras”.
Thanks to a team of 60+ affectionately-named “Pacinos”, hired with more emphasis on personality than experience, there’s always a welcoming, relaxed ambiance here – whether you’re visiting for a hearty breakfast, a laid-back lunch or dinner, or a glass of wine and appies.
Q&A with Pacini’s Nancy Bosse and Phil Blouin
Amongst the original Pacinos are Nancy Bosse, General Manager, and Phil Blouin, Kitchen Manager. Starting out in 1995 at fellow Banff Lodging Company property Banff Caribou Lodge, Nancy held roles from Kitchen Supervisor to Assistant General Manager, before moving to Pacini and leading its 2016 launch. Phil has also been with the Pacini team since the beginning, starting as Service Manager in 2016, before moving to Kitchen Manager in September 2017.
As the Pacini team prepares for their third summer of operation in Banff, we caught up with Nancy and Phil to hear about the restaurant’s evolution in Banff, carving a unique identity in a high-competition destination, and the team behind the signature Pacini experience.
BLC: Launching a new restaurant in a well-established destination like Banff would have been an exciting challenge, especially for a new team. Could you tell us about your launch?
NANCY: It was a whole lot of coordination, from programming the POS and inventory systems, to hiring crew and managers. I started in February 2016, and it was my first time in a General Manager role. Recruiting the whole team was our biggest challenge, hiring 80 staff from scratch. We also didn’t have a reference point for sales, so we had to do a lot of estimating when it came to stocking and scheduling. So we focused on people’s strengths in different roles, and refined our approach on the go. It was all a big learning curve, but very rewarding.
BLC: Coming into your third summer, how has the team and business evolved since 2016?
NANCY: In the beginning, we focused more on hiring based on experience, but we’ve learned that attitude is more important. Today we have around 60 staff in winter, and 80 in summer. Now that we have experience through different seasons and holidays, we are also much more prepared. We’ve enjoyed hosting every kind of event, from weddings and bachelorette parties to business meetings, Christmas parties, and family reunions. Business has been very good, picking up most in April and May, with the main rush from June to September.
PHIL: Today our clientele are half locals, half guests. Because of our location, we’re very noticeable for visitors. Mornings are popular before skiing or hiking, and for late risers. Last summer was particularly beautiful, so we were really busy on the patio with guests enjoying the views. In summer, the dinner rush starts much later, so we’re often busy until midnight.
BLC: With 28 locations in Quebec and 3 in Alberta, Pacini is earning a strong reputation across Canada. What makes your locally-owned and operated location unique in Banff?
NANCY: It’s a combination of the team, food, layout and location that creates a great ambiance. Our standards of service and set menus create a consistent quality of hospitality. We provide a warm welcome and attentive service, so you feel like you’re sharing meals at home with your family. What sets us apart from other Pacini locations is the true “Banff” spirit. It’s a big, bright, open, social space, with high ceilings and large windows with views of Tunnel Mountain.
BLC: Could you tell us about the “little extras” that Pacini offers as added value for guests?
PHIL: We offer lots of complimentary items such as our all-day Bread Bar with a variety of breads, jams and infused butters, duo mattino (cranberry-raisin-apricot bread) and yogurt and granola with breakfast, duo mezzogiorno (bruschetta) with brunch, and wine samples with dinner. We also set our tables with complimentary flavour-infused oils and fresh parmesan cheese to add to our pizzas. We’re also known for generous portion sizes. Quite often, people can’t finish their meals – so we provide a lot of to-go containers! Dining in Banff can be expensive, so these little touches are our way of providing extra value and hospitality.
BLC: Staff turnover is known to be a challenge in Banff – how do you maintain a strong team?
NANCY: Our turnover of kitchen staff has been particularly low since last September, and a large part of that is Phil’s positivity in the kitchen. His management style makes people want to work for him – you’re allowed to laugh here! We call ourselves “Pacinos” and we’re like a family. Having a friendly working environment goes a long way, and it’s the reason people stay.
We reward personality, humour and passion. When we do a staff evaluation, we ask: “Do you make people smile? Are you a friendly person? Do you contribute to a nice work environment for your colleagues?” Our service standard and team dynamic is what sets us apart.
BLC: There are lots of unique options on the menu here! What are your best-sellers?
PHIL: Seafood pasta is our best-seller by far, and our pizzas are very popular too. We also donate $1 to a local charity or community organisation from every lasagna sold, so that’s been a popular choice as well. Pacini has donated over $7,000 to the Banff Child Care Centre since its opening.
Banff Lodging Co. is an employee owned and operated company with accommodations, restaurants, spas, and retail/rental shop all located in Banff National Park