Updated: Mar 24, 2020
Severn Italian restaurant threatened by emergency
Casa Della Nona means “Grandma’s House” in Italian. The Italian eatery off Telegraph Road in Severn is hurting now because of the virus emergency just like businesses small and large in the area. Owner Bruno Veiga is from Laurel. He opened the restaurant a handful of years ago, but now finds himself confronted with the unknown. He hopes he can hang on and keep offering some of his employees an income.
His saving grace may be carry-out orders using the Door Dash and Uber Eats app, but he was noncommittal when asked about it. He said sit-down restaurant business was 75 percent of his revenue. Relying on carry-out orders alone has forced him to make some drastic changes.
He said in the last week or so he had to let five of his employees go. Now he’s working with just a staff of three in the kitchen. On a good day last year he might have 15 employees, he said.
“It’s the most difficult part of the business,” he said. “I want to be able to employ one more person every day, but with this crisis going on right now it’s not possible.”
Veiga came from Brazil two decades ago, but before that he learned to cook from his grandparents. Their family is originally from Italy. He refined his chef skills while learning under the late Josepe Mazzeo from Annapolis. He called Mazzeo his mentor.
The local restaurant business is facing something unique in the coronavirus. The local industry has encountered a huge speed bump in what was just recently a thriving economy. But it’s more than that. It’s community. The value of Casa Della Nonna was not only financial. The staff of the restaurant exuded a friendly, family atmosphere that those who came in to get a meal could enjoy.
That is now in jeopardy, at least in the short-term.
“My passion about cooking and putting a smile on people’s faces,” Viega said, “That’s the only thing I like about it.”
He said he has been constrained with business decisions. The only thing he can control in the crisis are labor and the purchase of ingredients. Rent and utilities are staying the same.
For now, carry-outs will have to be enough for Casa Della Nonna to carry on. He said the restaurant has encouraged delivery drivers to leave orders outside residences in order to facilitate social distancing. He is willing to make reasonable accommodations for customers when they order, including bringing food out to their vehicle in the parking lot out front.
When he spoke between answering the phone, March 18, he was trying to be realistic, yet hold out some hope for staying open. He didn’t know what government decision would be made in the future, he just wants to keep ‘grandma’s house’ open.
“Who knows how things will be going in a few more weeks,” he said. “I hope they let us keep working, at least the way I am working now, but who knows.”
Casa Della Nonna is located at 8141 Telegraph Road. Their phone number is 410-551-8000. If you’re looking for a New York-style cheese pizza or a big stromboli or cal zone this might be the place. Get it while it’s hot.