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Panhandler’s Pizza to reopen in Fort Collins with new owners |

Panhandler’s Pizza to reopen in Fort Collins with new owners

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The storied pizzeria is vacated its original location in September.
Jacob Laxen

The storied Panhandler’s Pizza will live on in Fort Collins.

The trademarks and deep dish recipes of the 37-year-old pizzeria that closed on Sept. 24 have been sold to Tortilla Marissa’s co-owner and former Panhandler’s manager Louann DeCoursey.

She’s currently finalizing a lease for a new location in Midtown Fort Collins and is targeting a late November reopening.

“I couldn’t watch Panhandler’s go away,” said DeCoursey, a Fort Collins native and longtime patron of the pizzeria. “I know how much people love it. It is a piece of Fort Collins.”

DeCoursey has salvaged brick, wood and the fireplace mantle from the original 1220 W. Elizabeth St. Panhandler’s building in the Campus West development. She’s planning on keeping the same menu the restaurant has long been known for. 

More: Customers flock to Fort Collins’ Panhandler’s Pizza for last slices

“It’s been around for 37 years for a reason,” DeCoursey said. “You don’t mess with something that’s working.”

DeCoursey has owned the southwestern-themed Tortilla Marissa’s at 2635 S. College Ave. with her husband Mike Piotraschke since 2013.

Longtime Panhandler’s owner John Olson was told earlier this year that the original building had been sold and was about to become high-end student housing. He initially planned to keep the Panhandler’s tradition alive in a new building but later decided to retire.

More: On second thought, Panhandler’s owner decides to close

Olson said he was contacted by numerous parties interested in purchasing the restaurant. There was a spike business during the restaurant’s final weeks.

“It’s pretty exciting that the tradition will continue,” Olson said.

Steve and Pam Foster opened Panhandler’s Pizza in 1975. The original Panhandler’s pies, which were cooked in cast iron skillets that were also on display in the restaurant, were different than deep dish pies made in rectangular pans at Panhandler’s in recent decades.

Olson bought the store in March 1981, moving from Wisconsin where he had worked for a regional pizza chain called Rocky Rococo that still operates numerous stores.

Inspired by the menu at Rocky Rococo, Olson created the thick pastry-style dough that’s become Panhandler’s trademark. The Chicago-style sauce features tomatoes spiced with garlic, basil and oregano. Whole milk mozzarella is used as the main cheese.

Follow Jacob Laxen on Twitter and Instagram @jacoblaxen.

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