May 27, 2002
Italian to carry on legacy of Charlie's Pizza
DUVALL-When Pat McKenzie bought Charlie's Pizza in 1997 from the original Charlie (Murtagh), little did he know he'd be having a similar conversation five years later.
An article which appeared in the Valley View in June of 1997 said that the sale to McKenzie (by Murtagh) happened almost accidentally. Five years later, McKenzie is reciting similar words at a table in the dining area of Charlie's Pizza with its new owner, Michael Marsala.
After seven months of ads that brought little response, McKenzie put a for sale sign in the window. He wasn't there when Michael came in and inquired, but an employee called him and he promptly came back in to meet with Marsala. A month later, Charlie's closed its doors in preparation to re-open as Charlie's Vacanze Romane with new owners Michael and Debbie Marsala. The eatery re-opened on May 18, Duvall Days.
Marsala chose to keep Charlie's name because of its tradition he said, and everybody recognizes it. They will keep the pizza recipe the same, barbeque and most of the rest of the existing menu, but will be adding "authentic Italian cuisine."
Marsala was born in Italy, and at 16 went to work for a family member in their restaurant where he spent two years gaining hands-on experience as a chef. Several years later, after visiting some friends in California he decided to stay. He spent the next three years as head chef for an Italian restaurant developing menus and getting new restaurants up and running for the owners.
He met his wife Debbie in California and when she received a job offer in the Northwest, Michael came along. Married in 1996, Michael spent the next seven years as chef at La Fontana in Seattle's Belltown.
When asked what made him want to buy a restaurant in Duvall, Marsala said it was an ideal location for him, he and his wife live only three miles away. "Why should people have to go somewhere else for good Italian food when they can get it right here?"
While other prospective buyers were wary of the Duvall location, Marsala sees it as a plus. He also said he wants to make contact with as many local farmers as he can and use only locally grown produce in his cooking.
"I like giving business to the community," said Marsala.
So what's next for Pat McKenzie? He says he's ready to move on. But he means it quite literally. He and his wife will be moving to Yakima to be close to family.
"I'm looking forward to being employee, instead of employer," said McKenzie.
He's been planning this for a while, selling the Video Factory he had owned in Duvall since 1991, in June 2001. "I'm excited for Duvall, this is going to be a good thing."
A testament to how much McKenzie and Charlie's has meant to the community, Duvall Christian School, which receives pizza at a hefty discount for school lunches, showed up with a banner signed by the school wishing him well and thanking him for all the pizza.
The new Charlie's Vacanze Romane re-opens to the public Thursday May 9th.