KING WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Two brothers lost their lives to COVID-19, dying just days apart, leaving their popular Italian restaurants without owners.
Two locations of Anna’s Italian Restaurant & Pizza were forced to shut down. The location in Saluda quickly reopened, but the location in West Point has been closed for nearly a year. However, that changed on Wednesday.
The family-owned restaurant reopened its doors with a lot of excitement and emotion.
Lunch and dinner were served for the first time since November of 2020 at Anna’s in King William County, with a new owner.
Fabio Buffa lost his father and uncle to the virus, months before the vaccine was available. Buffa is upholding their legacy by reopening the doors and inviting the community to dine with them again.
The parking lot of Anna’s was packed and the patio was also packed during the re-opening with hungry customers, like Amanda Coultrip, ready to support their local business.
“It’s amazing! We’re so excited Anna’s is reopening today,” Coultrip exclaimed. “We can support the community by coming to a place like this to have lunch and dinner and see family and friends.”
The keyword Coultrip said is “family” because that’s what Anna’s Italian Restaurant & Pizza is built upon.
Since the 1970’s the Buffa family has owned and operated several locations across Central Virginia, including ones in Richmond, Chesterfield and Hopewell.
However, COVID-19 took a large toll on the family.
“It was the worst experience of my life,” Fabio Buffa said, as he choked back tears. “We lost my dad and my uncle.”
Antonio ‘Joe’ Buffa was 68-years-old when he contracted COVID-19 around Labor Day and his brother 64-year-old Geatano Buffa also contracted the virus. According to the family, the two had no underlying conditions and were put on ventilators at the hospital. The brothers died just twelve days apart in 2020.
“My uncle died October 29 and my father died November 10,” Buffa shared. “The worst part about this was the isolation. We would drive to the hospital, but couldn’t see them.”
Recalling memories, Buffa shared that his dad and uncle were inseparable in and out of the kitchen. The Buffa family are Sicilian immigrants who first landed in New York. However, the market was too saturated with pizzerias, so the family moved to Virginia to start their business.
Fabio Buffa’s grandfather taught the brothers how to make pizza and run a business. Joe Buffa owned the West Point location for years before his brother, Geatano Buffa, took over as owner, so he could operate the Saluda location. Geatano Buffa also operated and owned Sergio’s in Brandermill in Chesterfield County.
Over the years, the brothers owned and operated various locations of Anna’s, but when they passed last year the Saluda and West Point locations shut their doors. Fabio Buffa’s brother was able to get the Saluda location up and running in December, however, West Point took more time.
“We’ve been trying to get this place back open,” Buffa said. “I still felt deeply connected to the place and I still do. Both of them were so well-loved in the community and it was very important that we just didn’t have someone else come in and do what we’re doing here.”
Reopening has presented many challenges for Fabio Buffa. He says navigating the pandemic, supply-chain shortages and mourning loved ones has been tough, but he’s stayed strong. He said it was his calling to go from administrative duties in the business to a now proud owner of Anna’s in the town of West Point.
“It’s been difficult and painful, but I believe in my heart that they’re all looking down on us and that they’re together, pleased that we’re doing this in their name,” cried Buffa.
In loving memory, the reopening was complete with the raising of the Italian flag in honor of the deceased brothers. Buffa is also in the process of getting a watercolor painting of the brothers to put in the restaurant, memorializing the dynamic duo.
Right now, Anna’s Italian Restaurant & Pizza in West Point is open seven days a week for pick-up, curbside or patio dining. Fabio Buffa is hoping to start indoor dining in January.
The hours are Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.