Family, friends, staff, and the tradespeople who helped rebuild the 50-year-old business came out to celebrate the restaurant’s reopening.
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On hand to congratulate Maria’s owners Gino and Bobbie-Sue Risi on their return to the business scene were Brantford mayor Kevin Davis and several local council members, member of parliament for Brant County Phil McColeman, and a representative from the office of Will Bouma, member of provincial parliament for Brantford-Brant .
Gino and Bobbie-Sue Risi have owned the pizzeria for the last five years. Maria’s Pizza was started Gino’s parents, Maria and Virgilio Risi, in 1968.
The current owners re-installed the Garland gas deck ovens they’ve had for 28 years in order to re-create the taste of their signature pizza.
During Maria’s “soft” opening on June 2, they posted on Facebook they’d be selling 100 pizzas on a first come, first served basis. Due to high demand, they ended up selling more than 350 pies in an afternoon.
Their marketing strategy this time was to sell “golden” tickets last week for a large half Canadian for $10. The tickets instruct customers to come during specific time periods throughout the day.
Paul McCaig, president of Paulsan Construction, the company that rebuilt the restaurant, said the process took about 10 months. “The Risi family wanted to keep the original feel but we’ve added modern conveniences, McCaig said. “This is a nice project for our resumé.”
Work on sister Rose Risi’s neighbouring Smak Dab Pottery studio is expected to be complete in late September.
Tom Campbell, the city inspector who worked on the project, said that as a regular customer it was nice to be a part of the process of the restaurant’s return.
City councillor Josh Wall also was pleased to see the business reopen. “Maria’s had no obligation to rebuild in the same location after the fire. We’re very thankful they did.”