By Kristen Castillo
Vinny Pante took the best of his culinary arts experience and blended it with his business acumen to open Acai Waffle in Downtown Tempe.
Pante’s father, Jimmy, suggested the acai theme based on his background as a personal trainer. After learning more about the benefits of the acai berry on cholesterol and brain function, the duo opened the shop.
“Everybody brings a little bit of everything to the table,” says Pante, whose family owns Amici Pizza in Mesa.
“(My father) has been in the industry for over 20 years. So, he knows the hospitality side. He knows the ins and outs of the little business tricks you can do. I grew up in the kitchen and I went to culinary school so I can bring a little flair and bring everything up to date.”
Located on the corner of Mill Avenue and Fifth Street, Acai Waffle is a healthy eating alternative that’s close to ASU.
“When my father told me about the benefits, I was like, ‘Yup. We can get behind this,’” Pante says. “I eat it. He works out every day. He trains people every day and his customers love it, too. It was just a no brainer for us to give it a shot.”
The shop specializes in customizable acai bowls, waffles and smoothies. Customers have the option of adding a warm waffle, cone or bowl as the foundation for the frozen puree. The Sun Devil and The Mill Avenue are two of the signature bowls.
“We know it’s the college crowd so that’s why we actually threw waffles on the menu instead of just having generic acai bowls,” Pante says. “You can actually come and have breakfast with us and have waffles.”
To begin customizing a build-your-own bowl, customers may choose a small for $8 or a large for $11, and then a base of acai, pitaya, coconut and matcha. Then, the frozen puree is topped with one or more of their granola — original, hemp or pumpkin flax. Afterward, vanilla, matcha or chocolate chia pudding that sits underneath unlimited toppings like coconut flakes, goji berries, pumpkin seeds, nut butter and fresh fruit. Acai is delivered weekly from California and all fruit is organically sourced from an Arizona farmers market.
To adhere to social distancing guidelines, Acai Waffle only allows outdoor seating and enforces a 6-feet distance between customers. Additionally, the restaurant offers delivery through GrubHub so customers can order the bowls, smoothies and waffles from their homes.
Despite COVID-19 restrictions, Pante says the business is dedicated to delivering fresh products to its customers.
“We’re a family that has a passion for fitness and staying healthy,” Pante says. “We’ve been in the industry, so we bring knowledge and we love the concept. We love acai and we love everything about it.” CT
425 S. Mill Avenue, Suite 108, Tempe