Not many business owners carry bags of homemade garlic knots to local businesses, treat their workers and customers like family, and spread love and positivity from table to table — besides Lasinda and Jimmy Crane, owners of Cranelli’s on Park Meadows Drive.
Their story began 27 years ago on a blind date set up by their best friends. Since then, they have worked in the restaurant industry both together and apart to pave the way for Cranelli’s.
Twenty years ago, their friends asked them to help open an Italian restaurant named after Jimmy called Jimmy C’s Pizza and Pasta in Lakewood. Lasinda and Jimmy developed the menu, later influencing Cranelli’s half and full portion choices.
They also hosted a “marinara party” at the restaurant where they tasted nine of Jimmy’s different marinara sauces to determine the best one. The winner is still used today at Cranelli’s.
Jimmy C’s expanded Lasinda’s and Jimmy’s skills from serving, managing and cooking to restaurant ownership. “We got to learn how you build a restaurant, how you get your guests in there, how you keep them in there, so many learning moments,” said Lasinda.
Lasinda and Jimmy moved on to flipping an Indian restaurant in Castle Pines into a steakhouse about two years later. Lasinda said, “We came in, and the kids slept on the bar. We were immersed in it.”
Jimmy’s Steakhouse, also named after Jimmy, flourished under Lasinda’s and Jimmy’s management. They hosted a fashion show and Christmas events in the restaurant, but eventually left when their job to flip the restaurant into a successful business was completed.
Jimmy went on to help open Brio Tuscan Grille in Park Meadows while Lasinda became the general manager at Nordstrom eBar.
After several years, Lasinda found Cranelli’s space on Craigslist and decided their chance to open their own restaurant was “now or never.” They took over the lease and began building the popular Italian restaurant, which opened in 2013. Lasinda said, “I knew this was our second home.”
To grow their connection to the community, Lasinda passed out bags of garlic knots and attended business openings like Kaiser Permanente. She also became a board member of the Lone Tree Chamber of Commerce to learn more about Lone Tree and give back.
Lasinda runs the front of the house at the restaurant, making sure customers are satisfied and learning more about their lives, while Jimmy cooks in the back.
“I love what I do. There’s not one day that I wish I wasn’t going to work,” said Lasinda.
The restaurant has regulars who come in once a week, but also receives about 40% new customers every day. Lasinda said they have gathered this statistic through servers interacting with customers. She wants to establish a community within the restaurant where everyone gets to know each other.
“I tell my servers, ‘This is your house, and when people come to your house for a party, what do you do? You talk to them,’” said Lasinda. “‘You make sure your house is clean. You make sure your house is organized. You make sure that the food is fantastic.’”
The hardest lesson Lasinda had to learn is that not everyone will love Cranelli’s. She said she tries to fix the experience for unhappy customers in the moment but isn’t always successful.
“I can pick up on it. I can see when food is still left in the bowl. I can see when their demeanor is not happy, but sometimes people will not say a word,” said Lasinda. “Then they will go and leave the worst review.”
Cranelli’s responds to every online review, good or bad, to acknowledge everyone’s experience.
Lasinda said Cranelli’s will never be a trendy restaurant where the menu constantly changes. “What we are is consistent, great quality food. That chicken parmigiana you had 10 years ago is still the same chicken parmigiana because that’s what you love,” said Lasinda.
Jimmy grew up with the loyalty of mom-and-pop restaurants and established those ideals in Cranelli’s. “We make (our employees) feel like they’re a part of more than just a restaurant,” said Jimmy.
The ultimate success of Cranelli’s rests in the strength of Lasinda’s and Jimmy’s partnership inside and outside of the restaurant.
“I don’t want to be so cliche on this, but she’s my best friend,” said Jimmy.
He said they are complete opposites — Lasinda loves to be out in the front being interviewed, while he prefers staying out of the spotlight. “If I see a camera to the left, I’ll go to the right, where Lasinda will say, ‘Ooh let’s see what’s going on over there,’” said Jimmy.
Jimmy said he shares the same core values with Lasinda, and after living and working together for 20 years, they still enjoy each other’s company.
“I think what’s been the best thing about all of it is we still love hanging out together,” said Lasinda. “We make it fun. We just both love this industry.”
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