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Charles County diners now have another option with the opening of Italian restaurant Buca di Beppo on Monday at the St. Charles Towne Center in Waldorf.

“It’s always nice to see something come to fruition,” said John Thall, executive vice president of Earl Enterprises, which owns Buca di Beppo as well as Planet Hollywood, Earl of Sandwich, Planet Daily and cocktail bar Mixology. “This has been a labor of love for six months, a little longer than we wanted to, but we’re very happy to be here in Charles County, [and] we have a great partnership with Simon [Malls, the owner of St. Charles Towne Center].”

The restaurant is in the southwest corner of the mall and has an outside entrance. There is also a small patio for dining outside.

“I think it’s just wonderful, and I think it’s a tribute to the area that we’re able to attract businesses that have maybe located somewhere else and want to be here, and I think that’s terrific,” said Betsy Burian, executive director of the Charles County Chamber of Commerce. “I think the St. Charles Towne Center will do beautifully as a result of having them here, and I think [Buca di Beppo] will do beautifully.”

“It’s a twofer, it’s definitely a twofer and it’s an awesome business,” said Charles County Commissioner Debra M. Davis (D). “If you ever walked past this [location], the windows have been papered up for a long time [after American Café closed], probably close to a year, so the idea that people still see Charles County as a viable place for economic development — they think they can make money here — is confirmation that we’re doing our job and we’re doing our job well.”

The restaurant has wooden chairs and tables with red-and-white checked tablecloths. Its tan walls are adorned with nearly 1,500 vintage photographs of athletes, politicians and movie stars.

“First of all, I was totally amazed when I pulled into the mall and saw the residential around here was phenomenal and it fits our demographic very well,” Thall said of why the chain decided to open its 96th restaurant in Waldorf. There are also five Buca di Beppos in the United Kingdom and one in Mexico. “There is a lot of industry and business around, so it was a win-win, we thought.”

Surrounded by local dignitaries, Burian and Thall officially opened the restaurant by lopping through the ceremonial ribbon with an over-sized pair of scissors.

Inside, Davis, Burian, and Miss Maryland 2011 and Charles County resident Allyn Rose commemorated the event by placing their hands in tomato paste and making marinara handprints on a white canvas board.

According to www.foodio54.com, there are 195 restaurants in the Waldorf area, but the glut of area dining options doesn’t faze Thall.

“Competition is great for everyone,” he said. “Restaurants bring a lot of synergy, so we hope we can feed off each other, and where we’re different is our style of cooking and our style of service. We’re traditional family style, which means large platters, large portions. That’s where we’re a little bit different. Everything is homemade, from our desserts to our marinara sauce. And you know what, who doesn’t love Italian?”

“It was absolutely delicious; I ate an entire week’s worth of food probably in about an hour, but it’s a great family location,” Rose said. “I think it’s a nice accompaniment to the mall, just to bring people out, especially from Charles County. We always like to celebrate diversity here, so it’s nice to have them in my hometown. My favorite dish? They had an amazing chicken dish with capers I loved, but you can’t pass up a super-duper sundae that they have with brownies and whipped cream. So we’ll go with the dessert.”

The restaurant also has private rooms for parties and caters events. Diners can sign and date their finished bottle of wine, and the restaurant will place it in its wine rack.

“It’s going to bring so much attention to the mall, and it means our mall is headed in the right direction with new and upstart businesses,” Davis said. “It’s all good stuff.”

Davis said that the business has a “real good community feel to it. Their mantra is that they get involved in the community,” she said. “What better partnership can you ask for?”

mreid@somdnews.com