Dylan RocheCharlie Priola and Arturo Ottaviano, two well-established restaurateurs, have teamed up to create La Posta Pizzeria, housed in the old post office on Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard.
Dylan RocheThe restaurant’s owners worked to design the dining room themselves, creating the distressed wood tables by hand and picking out the canvasses that adorn the walls.
La Posta Pizzeria Brings A Slice Of Italy To Severna Park
For years, Charlie Priola’s family recipes have tantalized the tastebuds of countless hungry pizza eaters at Mangia in downtown Annapolis, and just a stone’s throw away on Main Street, Arturo Ottaviano’s culinary skills have persuaded many guests at Osteria 177 that they’ve been swept away to Italy.
Now the two friends and restaurateurs are fulfilling a longtime ambition of collaborating to bring their renowned fare closer to home for the estimated three-quarters of their customer base that lives in the Greater Severna Park area.
As they put the finishing touches on La Posta Pizzeria, located at 513 Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard, the duo could not be more excited. “We’ve always said, ‘We need to do something together,’” explained Priola, a Manhattan Beach resident who frequently takes his family out to dinner locally and knows how active the Severna Park dining scene is.
He and Ottaviano began searching for a place to set up shop months ago, but it wasn’t until fall 2016 that they found the right venue — the building that longtime served as the town post office and briefly as Zarilli’s Steaks and Hoagies. “The space here became available, and we ran with it,” Priola said.
A Pizza Place Right In The Heart Of The Park
Magnificently transformed on the inside, the restaurant features hand-carved and distressed wood tables and bar, bold red walls and an open view of the kitchen, where a 900-degree wood-fire oven can cook an authentic Neapolitan pizza in as little as 90 seconds.
“People will realize we’re giving them the most authentic Italian they can have — we’re not compromising on anything,” said Ottaviano. The casual ambiance and affordable pricing, he explained, will make La Posta Pizzeria an ideal fit for families, but the top-quality product prepared using traditional Italian technique will set the restaurant apart from other places. “Sometimes in American traditional cuisine, it isn’t served properly,” Ottaviano said of Italian cooking.
The menu at La Posta Pizzeria boasts an array of made-in-house delights — from the freshly crafted pasta and gnocchi to the homemade mozzarella — combining the culinary skills of both Ottaviano and Priola.
Meet The Capi — That’s Italian For “Bosses”
“My background is mostly pizza, and I enjoy doing it; I love it,” Priola said. The Severna Park native recalled that his best childhood memories were of being in the kitchen with his dad, Giuseppe, and learning the art of pizza making in the kitchen of their family’s Harundale restaurant. “My favorite thing was not going to school and instead going to the restaurant with my dad and cooking,” he said with a laugh.
Priola’s family took their restaurant to downtown Annapolis in 1974, when they opened Maria's Sicilian Ristorante & Café, originally a small, 18-seat pizza shop that grew two years later into a fine dining establishment. “We became one of the best Italian restaurants in the area,” he said. His family opened Mangia just on the other side of the Annapolis city dock in 1997.
Born and raised in Italy, Ottaviano trained at the culinary school Bardolino on the Lake of Garda, where he had the opportunity to do an exchange program in Washington, D.C., that exposed him to the potential of making his restaurant dreams a reality. When he finished school, he returned to Maryland, and he opened Osteria 177 in downtown Annapolis, followed by Arturo’s Trattoria in Glen Burnie.
He expects La Posta Pizzeria will be different from his other ventures because it will be geared more toward families rather than fine dining.
“I go to D.C. quite often, and Italian pizzerias are opening left and right,” he said. “But nothing is available around here.” La Posta Pizzeria’s will serve artisan pies the traditional Italian way, the way they were intended to be enjoyed.
Designing A Restaurant
For the past few weeks, the wood-fire oven at La Posta Pizzeria has been ablaze, heating pizza after pizza as Priola and Ottaviano perfect their recipes for this new venture. Spelled out across the top of the oven door is the word “CAPO,” originally intended to be the name of the restaurant. The Italian word for “boss,” Capo represented the collaboration of two well-established restaurateurs. It was also their initials: Charlie and Arturo, Priola and Ottaviano.
But as the bosses spread the word about their new restaurant, they realized they would be missing a great branding opportunity if they didn’t change the name.
“When we were telling people we were opening up a restaurant in Severna Park, they said, ‘Where?’ When we told them it’s the Severna Park Post Office, they knew exactly where it’s at. I mean, hundreds of people,” Priola said. “So we decided to stick with that theme. We called it La Posta Pizzeria.”
In keeping with the theme of a post office, the La Posta Pizzeria logo is a giant stamp. The placemats look like giant envelopes with the logo in the top right corner. Even the carryout pizza boxes will be stamped with the logo and contact information on top before they are taken away.
Much of the work preparing for the opening has been logistics — getting the right permits, being inspected for health and fire safety, and ordering the plates, glasses and flatware.
The owners have even had their hands busy with refreshing the look of the interior. Priola, who is also a hobby woodworker, made the tables and bar by staining the wood gray, then sanding the gray away to achieve saw marks, followed by burning the wood with a torch to give it an old rustic look as if it has been outside.
Meanwhile, Arturo picked out the canvases that adorn the walls of the dining room, presenting an eclectic array of artwork that adds to the ambiance.
“The first impression is very important with customers — the look, the smell, the taste,” Priola described. “It’s got to be top notch.”
Opening The Doors
Although no date has been set for the official opening of La Posta Pizzeria, Priola and Ottaviano expect it will be any day now. Community members who want to stay “posted” for more information can find and like “La Posta” on Facebook or call 443-906-2840.
Priola expects that when they finally welcome Severna Park’s hungry patrons into the dining room, the place will be a hit — and he and Ottaviano will be busier than they are now. “Once we unlock that door and we’re open to the public, for the next six months, it’s going to be nonstop,” he said.