Maria’s on the road to reopening - Titusville Herald: News

Maria’s on the road to reopening

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Posted: Tuesday, June 25, 2019 5:00 am

After more than a year and a half away, a favorite Titusville restaurant is set to make a return. Maria’s Italian Restaurant has found a new home, following a deal made Friday, and owner Giacomo Albegiani is looking to open the eatery’s doors within the next few months.

Fans of the restaurant will not have to look far, as the new Maria’s is located right next door to its last incarnation. Samuel and Cindy Hamilton, who previously leased the site to the Lighthouse Christian Center, first approached Albegiani about selling the locale in February.

According to Albegiani, the Hamilton’s had done repair work to the building before approaching him with the proposed sale. The center incurred minor water damage in the same Jan. 16, 2018, fire that destroyed the previous Maria’s, but was relatively untouched by the flames.

As all of the restaurant’s equipment was lost in that blaze, it will be some time before Maria’s is set to reopen. On top of performing renovations to get the new location up to code, Albegiani will have to purchase and install new tables, cooking apparatuses and more. He estimates the whole process will take him around two to four months to complete, but admitted he could be off in that guess.

“Who knows? I might be open in six weeks,” Albegiani told The Herald. “I doubt it, but who knows?”

Still early in the process of getting the restaurant reopen, Albegiani is still deciding on how the interior will look, including whether it will look similar to the last version.

“I haven’t got that far yet. We’re going to have to do another interview in a couple months once everything gets closer to the day,” he said with a laugh.

One thing that won’t see much change is the menu, however. Albegiani said he intends to keep the available foods 90% the same, with a few additions and subtractions made. As its name implies, Maria’s specializes in dishes such as pasta, pizza, chicken parmesan and other Italian dishes.

Despite all of the extra work that will go into getting the new location open, Albegiani has high hopes for the space.

“I feel so far, out of all of the Maria’s, and we’ve had three in town, I think this one will be the best one yet,” he said.

The advantage of starting over from scratch is that Albegiani will be able to complete design the layout of the restaurant himself. He said that with all of the previous versions, some aspects of the interior had already been set up. With this new space, he has almost carte blanche to set up things however he wants.

The reopening is a long time coming for Albegiani, who said that he spent the entire time since the last Maria’s burned down looking for a new place to reopen the restaurant. During that period, members of the community have constantly asked him about the future of the eatery.

“I can’t go to the grocery store without someone saying ‘Hey, what’s going on? When are you coming back?’” he said. “It’s been a never-ending story, and I never quit looking for the right place to open up.”

Albegiani said he was thankful the residents of Titusville always kept thinking of him and his restaurant during his search. Maria’s has been a staple of the community, first opening its doors in March 25, 2004, at 316 E. Central Ave.

The restaurant was founded by Albegiani’s father, who bears the same name. The title for the business actually comes from a previous restaurant the elder Albegiani had purchased in the 1990s, with the name being kept despite not having any relation to the family.

After six years, the eatery moved to the shopping plaza that holds Family Video, located at 128 W. Spring St., on April 28, 2010. It moved again on Feb. 23, 2016, to the spot that would eventually burn down, which was found at 109 W. Spring St.

Albegiani still remembers the night of the fire. He was showering at the time when his cellphone started going off constantly. He picked up to find then-Sergeant Ruel Root of the Titusville Police Department on the line, who told him the restaurant was on fire.

At first, Albegiani thought the call was a joke, as he and Root were good friends. However, as Root stressed the matter, Albegiani realized the truth and rushed to the scene.

“I’ll never forget,” he said. “It was -5 degrees outside, everybody was outside, and the more they tried to stop it, it just kept growing.”

The fire was discovered just before 11 p.m., and took more than five hours to put out. Titusville Fire Department was joined by Cherrytree, Hydetown, Pleasantville, Oil City, Corry, Franklin and Cornplanter volunteer departments at the scene.

The fire started somewhere in the kitchen area of the restaurant, and a large quantity of dry goods stored in the area contributed to the flames spreading.

Albegiani said it took him a few weeks to really process that the restaurant was gone, describing it like being “in shock.”

The fire collapsed the roof of Maria’s and an adjacent building, which house the New Life Care Center, resulting in both getting demolished later in the year. The fallen roofs were a complicating factor in the fire, as fire crews had to wait for the flames to burn their way through the debris before they could attack them with water.

According to Titusville Fire Chief Joe Lamey, the Lighthouse Christian Center was able to withstand the flames due to having a steel frame that resisted catching on fire. The blaze was declared under control at 4:54 a.m., though exact cause of the conflagration was never determined.

For the Hamilton’s, the sale is a way to give new use to a historic structure. The building that will become the new Maria’s, located at 111 W. Spring St., has a long history, dating back all the way to around the 1840s.

Notably, the second floor of the building is the former Corinthian Hall, an opera house that ran in Titusville in the 1800s. Several prominent people visited the hall, including John Wilkes Booth and Mark Twain.

Since that time, it has served a variety of purposes, including as a stationary store, furniture business and a nickelodeon theater, among other purposes.

“We wanted to see that it had another life, and we were willing to let it go to the next person,” Samuel Hamilton said.

Restoration was a major part of the repairs the pair completed after the fire. The Hamilton’s said they tried to restore as much of the building as possible, which included installing a new roof, putting up new plaster and repainting the interior, a paint scheme Albegiani said he would keep. There were also several modern amenities added, such as a high-efficiency boiler.

Samuel Hamilton said Albegiani expressed an interest in purchasing the building shortly after the fire, but said he wanted to wait for more repairs to be done. As the work got closer and closer to completion, the offer became more serious. According to Samuel Hamilton, Albegiani was dead set about purchasing the building a month ago. While he wouldn’t give specifics, Samuel Hamilton said they sold the building for a “fair price.”

 Cindy Hamilton said, “We wanted to see him reopen in town. We just think it’s a great thing that he could come back.”

Ray can be reached, by email, at

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1 comment:

  • VIcky D posted at 9:56 am on Mon, Jul 8, 2019.

    VIcky D Posts: 1

    [beam] This makes us so happy! So glad Giacomo can reopen. Can't wait. Our favorite restaurant in town!


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