A University of Virginia-area restaurant that has been providing pizza and other Italian dishes for nearly 50 years plans to serve its last slice shortly before Christmas.
Anna’s Pizza #5 will close on Dec. 19, says Maria Buzzetta, 65, who operates the Maury Avenue restaurant with her sister, Marta Grado, 69.
“It’s retirement time,” says Buzzetta. “It’s more sad leaving the customers behind than anything else.”
One cheer-challenged customer is M.J. Hofland, who lives nearby.
“It’s a huge disappointment and big loss for the neighborhood,” says Hofland. “It just looks like you’re walking into the 1980s when you walk in there, but the food that they kick out is excellent.”
Hofland compares the pizza at Anna’s to that served in the Queens borough of New York. She says she would often delight at seeing three generations of family working the counter.
One time, Hofland recounts, she was supposed to pick up a pizza at closing time but ended up getting there 45 minutes late, just as the doors were locking.
“The pizza was still there,” recalls an appreciative Hofland, “and they had it waiting for me.”
Charlie Smith, 69, who operates the Wahoo Wash in that same strip shopping center, remembers bonding as a college student with his girlfriend and now-wife over Anna’s anchovy pizza.
“I can’t remember Anna’s Pizza not being there,” says Smith. “It’s an institution.”
City records show a new owner took over that retail strip, which also houses the Yuan Ho carry-out restaurant, in a $3-million transaction earlier this year.
Smith plans to move Wahoo Wash next door into the shuttered Mother Lode laundromat location for what he calls a more favorable lease.
Buzzetta, however, says that the decision to close was hers.
“It was time,” she says. “The new landlords have nothing to do with this.”
Buzzetta says she and her sister were born and raised in Sicily, as was their grandmother, Anna, the restaurant’s namesake and recipe-provider.
“The family’s always been in the restaurant business,” Buzzetta says, as her sister wheels an equipment cart through the cavernous space, unchanged for decades.
At Anna’s, a large pizza starts at $13.95, baked ziti is $14.25 including bread and salad, with the menu’s priciest item the frutta di mare, pasta with clams and mussels in a marinara sauce, for $19.25.
Buzzetta says she first visited America as a teenager in 1969 and immigrated with family two years later. She says she went to work at Anna’s #5 in 1976, two years after a relative started it as a college-town outpost of his small chain of pizza places in Tidewater.
That’s how the distinctive name came about.
“My uncle, when he was opening them down in Hampton and Newport News, started putting numbers on them, and this was his fifth one.”
Buzzetta says her uncle was tired of driving to Charlottesville, so she took over, never took the #5 off the sign, and always revered her grandmother’s recipes.
A complete retirement doesn’t seem to suit Buzzetta, even though she’s now a grandmother herself. She has recently begun selling fresh pasta, dressings, tomato sauces, and desserts at the City Market, the once-a-week farmer’s market downtown.
The name of her business is Sapori Della Nonna. That’s Italian for “flavors of the grandmother.”