Bianchi's Italian restaurant is closing its Marana location at the end of business Tuesday, March 31, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The restaurant, a second outpost of the original Bianchi's at 1110 N. Silverbell Road, announced the move on Facebook Sunday. The Silverbell Road location will remain open.
"This has been a very difficult decision. We overcame many obstacles including a rough opening and 18 months of road construction, but we cannot overcome COVID-19," owner Vincent Bianchi wrote.
On Monday, Bianchi said that the decision is especially hard since his restaurant was turning the corner and picking up steam after several years of speed bumps and detours.
Bianchi opened the restaurant in summer 2015 in the 7,000-square-foot building at 3640 W. Tangerine Road that had been home for four years to the Tucson outpost of Sonoita's historic Steak Out restaurant. The Steak Out closed in July 2013 and the building, set back off Tangerine Road behind a McDonald's restaurant, sat vacant.
After months of hiccups that included computer problems, figuring out staffing and reworking the counter service formula that has been in place at the original Bianchi's for decades, the Marana restaurant had just started finding its groove when roadwork on West Tangerine began.
The project to widen Tangerine took 18 months and when it was finished, Bianchi said it felt like starting over again.
Before long, though, the restaurant fell back into a groove, booking catering gigs and hosting community fundraisers for everything from high school sports teams and Little Leagues to church groups. In all, Bianchi says they hosted 100 community fundraisers in their five years in Marana.
"We had some serious momentum going" in the past year or so, he said. "We had finally turned the corner.”
When the Town of Marana ordered all restaurant dining rooms closed about two weeks ago, that momentum ground nearly to a halt. Bianchi said he had to lay off two thirds of his 60-member crew.
"It's such a beautiful building. It’s just not meant to be a pickup and delivery place," he said. "It’s not what anybody wanted. One day you're jamming and then nothing.”
Bianchi said a few of the Marana workers could be hired at the Silverbell restaurant.