For the past three and a half months, Giacomo Albegiani has been working hard on building the newest iteration of his business, Maria’s Pizza and Italian Restaurant. On Wednesday, his work will come to fruition as the eatery once more opens its doors to the public.
“I’m excited to be able to see all the customers again,” Albegiani told The Herald.
An announcement was made Monday on the restaurant’s Facebook page declaring that it would reopen. Maria’s Pizza and Italian Restaurant had previously been destroyed in a Jan. 16, 2018, fire that also claimed an adjoining building, 107 W. Spring St. The fire began in the kitchen area of the restaurant, which was then located at 109 W. Spring St., and burned all the way through the roof of the structures.
After recovering from the shock of the blaze, Albegiani set out to find a new location for Maria’s to return in. He finally found the spot in June, when he bought 111 W. Spring St. from Samuel and Cindy Hamilton. Since then, he, with the support of family and employees, has set out to prepare the property for its new purpose.
That work didn’t come easy. According to Albegiani, all of the equipment from the previous version of Maria’s was destroyed in the fire, requiring the purchase of new ovens, freezers, sinks and more.
Further, the space itself required extensive work to prepare it for use as a restaurant. New lighting and a wall dividing the kitchen from the dining area were installed, and several new tables were brought in and arranged.
The latest Maria’s locale does boast several new features over the old one. Albegiani estimates that the space is roughly “50% bigger” than the previous version of the restaurant, and is capable of seating around 115 people. The kitchen space is also larger, something Albegiani is very happy about.
A key feature of the new Maria’s is a mural of an Italian coastline painted by Brent Muir of Bluegill Graphix and Kenny Beatty of the Beatty’s Switchblade 347 Tattoo parlor. The mural is accompanied by several phrases that were painted on the walls by Albegiani and acquaintances.
While the look of Maria’s may be different, one thing that won’t change is the menu. Albegiani said the food served at the restaurant will remain largely the same for now, though he may add some more for the future.
In fact, Albegiani is planning to keep things nice and simple for Maria’s reopening.
“My best hope is to get up and running, and get all the kinks worked out as soon as possible,” he said.
While Wednesday may mark the return of the restaurant for the first time in more than a year, it will be business as usual for the most part. Albegiani is waiting to make sure everything runs smoothly at the new Maria’s before going for a bigger grand opening event.
Getting back into the restaurant game has swelled a mixture of emotions in Albegiani, who used only three words to describe how he was feeling when asked.
“Exciting, nervous and anxious,” he said.
He’s gotten dozens of questions about the restaurant’s reopening over the past several months, and is looking forward to finally being able to open his doors once more.
The first iteration of Maria’s was founded by Albegiani’s father on March 25, 2004. Initially located at 316 E. Central Ave., it moved to the shopping plaza at 128 W. Spring St. on April 28, 2010.
It moved again on Feb. 23, 2016, to the location that would be destroyed in the fire. The restaurant is named after a previous eatery that Albegiani’s father had purchased in the 1990s, which had the name “Maria’s” in its title. The name was kept even though it had no relation to the Albegiani family.
The new location of the restaurant is a historic structure, dating back to the 1840s. The second floor of the building once was home to Corinthian Hall, an opera house that saw several prominent visitors, including John Wilkes Booth and Mark Twain, according to the Hamiltons.
It has served a variety of purposes over the years, including acting as a stationary store, furniture business and a nickelodeon theater.
The new Maria’s Pizza and Italian Restaurant is located at 111 W. Spring St. It is open Tuesdays through Fridays, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and on Saturdays, from noon to 9 p.m.
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