His mother was born and raised in Naples, Italy, so Fouad Qreitem grew up eating good Italian food.
That helped inspire him, 19 years ago, to open his first Paisano's Pizza restaurant in Fairfax, Va., at the tender age of 22.
Now Paisano's is a blossoming franchise with around 35 restaurants in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland.
Add Chattanooga to the list.
Paisano's Pizza opened last week at 2020 Gunbarrel Road next to the HoneyBaked Ham in a strip mall anchored by Walmart on Gunbarrel Road.
Paisano’s Pizza is located at 2020 Gunbarrel Road # 160. Call 713-9300 or visit paisanospizza.com to learn more.
With the motto "something for everyone," the restaurant's menu includes wings, salads, New York-style pizzas, gluten-sensitive pizzas, calzones, strombolis, entrees such as meat lasagna, subs, sandwiches, wraps and burgers, and desserts. Prices range from $7.99 for a 10-inch cheese pizza to $19.99 for a 16-inch Paisano's Supreme. Baked ziti is $10.99. Calzones and strombolis cost $8.99. Kids' meals are $4.99.
It's the first Paisano's Pizza restaurant to open in Tennessee, and it's owned by Pratik Patel, P.J. Patel and Nick Patel, three entrepreneurs originally from Gujarat, a state in western India that was the home of civil rights leader Mahatma Gandhi.
"We bought the whole territory in Chattanooga," Pratik Patel said. "We plan to open five stores in Chattanooga."
P.J. and Nick Patel have lived in Chattanooga for about 12 years, and their family is involved in other businesses here, including convenience stores, the Motel 6 in East Ridge and the Days Inn in downtown Chattanooga that's home to City Cafe Diner.
One thing that sets Paisano's apart from other chain pizza places, Qreitem said, is that it has a full-service kitchen and food is cooked to order.
"They're sauteing the garlic here," he said. "Our dough is made here every single day. Our tomatoes are 100 percent real, California tomatoes.
"That's what makes the difference — our products are fresh," Qreitem said.
Paisano's tops its pizzas with 100 percent mozzarella and provolone cheese, he said.
"No filler," said Qreitem.
All of those factors attracted the Patels to the franchise.
"Everything is made from scratch, everything is fresh," Pratik Patel said.
The three Patels signed a 15-year lease for the Gunbarrel Road space, and they've invested about $600,000 in the new restaurant which has around 45 employees.
They expect 70 percent of the business will be delivery, with the remainder being eat-in and take-out. They expect to make about $2 million in revenue, annually, at the Gunbarrel Road store, Pratik Patel said.
If the trio opens five Paisano's Pizza Restaurants, they say it would mean an investment of $2.5 million to $3 million and around 250 employees.
"That's our vision for Chattanooga," Pratik Patel said.
The restaurant plans to give back to the community, he added.
On its opening day, Paisano's gave away free slices of pizza in return for an optional donation to East Brainerd Elementary School.
Among those dining in for lunch on the restaurant's opening day were friends Erin Quinn and Xantha Keith-Midgette.
"I love calzones," Keith-Midgette said. "It was quick and good."