It has been more than a decade since George Sakellis and his sister, Maria Sakellis, moved to the area and established Laurel Pizzeria and more has happened in the ensuing decade than either originally had imagined.
They were drawn to Laurel because of the opportunity the town presented. It was a town, they thought, on the move with a nice balance of older people and young families.
From George’s perspective, it was a great place for a start. If you had asked him then, his 10 year plan might not have included growing old in Laurel but times change and roots get planted. Within the first few years both he and Maria had become attached to the town and its people.
George has begun raising a family in town and the siblings have become not only prominent and respected business owners, but also good friends and neighbors both personally and professionally.
In retrospect, it seems almost obvious. The family work ethic puts pride in one’s job and respect of one’s customers to the fore. But that kind of attitude isn’t something you can turn on and turn off as if it comes as part of punching the clock. The siblings were committed to serving their customers and very quickly realized that included serving their community.
Smash and Dash Burgery Origin Story
Maria is planting roots of her own, having married to Valantis Hapsis, who has joined the company as well. And they will need the help. The restaurant company has expanded and opened something special: the Smash and Dash Burgery in the building that formerly held the Tastee Freeze.
Laurel Pizzeria has been pretty successful over the restaurant’s history and George and Maria decided to expand and open an additional restaurant.
They looked at several places in the region but in the end settled on Laurel. It wasn’t just that they knew the market and had an understanding about what was likely to work and what wasn’t. It was that they knew what they wanted for their own town, for their own families, and knew that Laurel offered all of the right opportunities.
Everyone who knows Laurel Pizzeria understands why they do as well as they do. For George, the three keys are service, product and location.
“Service is key, product is very important,” he said. “Location is a nice bonus.”
George knows you have a better chance of overcoming a mediocre location than you do mediocre service or product, which is why Laurel Pizzeria has leaned so hard on both over the years.
Back to the Basics at Laurel Pizzeria
If you’ve never been, Laurel Pizzeria is one of the region’s best overall family dining restaurants. They serve quality pizza consistently, but many of their regulars opt for some of their other menu offerings.
Their homemade lasagna and stuffed peppers (all made, of course, with homemade sauce) are perennial favorites both because the dishes are made with care and because the portions set the standard for what people expect from Italian food.
Similarly, the shrimp, eggplant, chicken and veal parmigiana meals are to die for. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
No Eastern Shore restaurant can miss out on the opportunity to show off its own takes on classics from the sea. Laurel Pizzeria is among the few pizza places that draws diners based on the quality of its crabcakes alone. It’s something they’ve come to be proud of and rightfully so.
Beyond that, the restaurant also has embraced the panini and makes some of the best sandwiches available from the finest ciabatta bread.
For dessert, you can’t go wrong with what might possibly be the tastiest baklava in the region, sweet and sticky but not too much of either.
They also have N.Y. cheesecake, tiramisu and another half-dozen dessert choices that are nearly impossible to decide between, but the quality and the care with which they’re prepared is what matters.
It takes a long time to do a number of things well, and a lot of work to maintain the kind of reputation that comes with doing a lot of things well which is something Laurel Pizzeria has earned.
A version of this story originally appeared in the Metropolitan Magazine.