Southwest valley Italian eatery a dream realized for couple

Ralph and Anna Marie Pota, the couple behind Bambino’s East Coast Pizzeria, have broken ties and launched Anna Marie’s Italian Cuisine.

“It’s the same concept with that family feel,” Anna Marie said of the new eatery, set to open in early to mid-May. “But it’s more of a modern setting. We wanted it to be neighborhood-friendly. … I don’t want people to think it’s too nice, that you go only if you’re dressed (up).”

The restaurant’s address is 10170 W. Tropicana Ave., Suite 144, but it faces Hualapai Way.

Bambino’s had a small, cozy feel, while Anna Marie’s has a full bar, a takeout section and seating aplenty. The couple said many customers at Bambino’s came from the southwest area, so the new location was a great fit.

Ralph was born in Naples, Italy, and moved to the United States as a child. Growing up in Elmont, New York, on Long Island, he began working in restaurants in the New York City area at 10. At home, he cooked alongside his mother, Agata.

“We’re all-Italian, straight off the boat,” Ralph said. “A lot of the recipes we use are from my mother.”

Agata, who was visiting from Long Island and needed a translator, chimed in on the most important aspects of Italian cooking.

“Basil and good oil, and don’t cheap out on the tomatoes; always use quality tomatoes,” she said.

Anna Marie’s occupies a 2,400-square-foot space that seats 85, with two horseshoe booths and leather banquet seating along one wall. Community seating will available for groups. On the walls will be 55-inch TVs.

The kitchen is “humongous compared to Bambino’s,” Ralph said, pointing as he talked. “The walk-in cooler is 11 by 8 feet. There’s a salad-prep table. There’s a 12-burner stove.”

There have been glitches along the way. Securing permits takes time. Finding contractors proved frustrating. Ralph flew in his father, Biagio, a tile layer, from New York to do the flooring. Even small things created obstacles. When the wood-fired oven arrived from California, for example, there was no lift to get it off the truck, and the driver had no helpers.

“They sent one man to lift 3,000 pounds; can you imagine?” Ralph said.

They ended up taking the oven apart and carrying it inside piece by piece.

“Bambino’s was great; we learned everything there,” Ralph said. “It helped us get to this. … But this, it’s the design of how all the stores back East run. It’s all set up for high volume. I’m excited. This is what I always (wanted).”

Contact Jan Hogan at jhogan@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2949.

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