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Marabella Old World Pizza named Merchant of the Month

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Sal Passalacqua, co-owner of Marabella, receives the Merchant of the Month award from Farmville Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Judy Gidley. At left is manager Debbie Radwick.

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The Daily Reflector

Monday, October 31, 2016

Sal Passalacqua has been spreading the taste of Italy with his family’s touch since expanding his father’s franchise in 2006 in Washington, N.C.

Marabella Old World Pizza opened in Greenville in 2011, and in 2012, made Farmville its third home. This year, Passalacqua opened Nino’s, a fine dining Italian restaurant in Greenville.

The Farmville location at 3750 S. Main St. has been a hit for local residents and recently was named the Farmville Chamber of Commerce merchant of the Month for October.

“Marabella is special to Farmville in this beautiful building in the heart of downtown,” Judy Gidley, director of the chamber, said. “We are proud they are here. They are a blessing to Farmville.”

The family business has its roots in Sicily, Italy, where Passalacqua lived until 1978 and learned by watching his grandfather, a baker, and his father, Nino. His father came to the United States in 1972 and opened Marabella in 1984 in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Marabella, the region where his family lived in Sicily, inspired the franchise name. Mara means Maria in Italian, and Bella means beautiful, he said.

“I grew up in the family business,” he said. “I made my first bread probably when I was 4 or 5 years old and my first pizza when I was 8 years old.”

Passalacqua relocated to North Carolina after numerous visits to relatives here. He is a Southerner at heart, he said.

“I grew up in southern Italy,” he said with a laugh. “I like the way of life here.”

Passalacqua, who now resides in Winterville, met Frank Styers several years ago. Styers, whose wife is from Washington, N.C., is the former owner of the Buzz Around, which once was housed in Marabella’s Farmville location. Styers also owns the building.

“I have always liked Farmville, and when I met Frank and saw the building, it was a good fit. He brought me here,” Passalacqua said.

Passalacqua and his brother-in-law and co-owner, Massimo Mannino, have received national and international recognition for their kitchen creations. They are members of the U.S. team in the Western Pizza Trials and recently traveled to Las Vegas seeking a spot on the team that will compete in Italy and later in China.

Marabella touts itself as serving fresh, traditional family recipes. Pizza ranks as a top-selling item.

“Fresh mozzarella moves on a pizza. It is another ballgame,” said manager Debbie Radwick, Passalacqua’s longtime family friend who recently joined his staff.

Marabella’s lasagna also is a customer favorite.

“Customers love our homemade red sauce — great-grandma’s recipe,” Radwick said.

The restaurant also offers an exclusive wine, Nino’s, which is made in Italy and bottled exclusively for Marabella’s. The wine can only be purchased in the restaurants.

Marabella of Farmville employs 16, including Passalacqua’s father-in-law, Mario Patrasuc, who can be found most days in the kitchen creating pies.

“Mario helped launched our Farmville location and has definitely helped make my life easier,” Passalacqua said.

Radwick is no stranger to Farmville. She lived in Fountain for many years before relocating to Florida in 1998.

“My children attended Farmville’s schools, and I’ve reconnected with many people,” she said.

Marabella is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. It features indoor and outdoor dining options and an upstairs banquet room. Marabella also offers delivery service.

Call 753-0305.

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