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Pizzeria's big menu reflects owner's big heart

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Photo by Pat Sunderland Annie's Pizzeria owner Raymond Batalla-Santiago is pictured with his wife Anne, son Adam, good friend Dillard Griffith and two staff members, Kelly Carroll (left) and Jen Sparkman.

Annie's Pizzeria may not make owner Ray Batalla-Santiago and his family a lot of money, but it's sure to make them a lot of friends, and in Ray's mind that's far more important than a fat bank account.

Ray is a big-hearted guy who doesn't like to see anyone go hungry. He was born in Puerto Rico, raised in Sicily and came to the United States as an 11-year-old who could speak no English. He learned English and developed a love for cooking at a family diner in Queens. His 35-year career as a chef has taken him from hospitals to four-star fine dining establishments. Through his faith, which underscores all he does personally and professionally, he met Dillard and Reva Griffith. At that time Ray and his family were living in Douglas, Wyo., but were talking about returning to the East Coast. The Griffiths invited them to take a look at Cedaredge, and they immediately fell in love with the community. First, there's no wind. Second, it's a peaceful community where neighbors are truly neighborly.

After moving to Cedaredge in 2015, Ray installed a professional kitchen in his home, then with the help of real estate agent Perry Hotz located a business opportunity at 280 W. Main Street in downtown Cedaredge.

The restaurant is named Annie's Pizzeria, after Ray's wife Anne. Pizza is the mainstay, but Ray can cook just about anything, from breakfast to traditional Sicilian favorites such as manicotti and veal cutlet parmesan. Many of his recipes have been handed down from generation to generation.

The pizza is New York style with just about any topping you can dream up -- except pork products, which are not biblically kosher.

Daily specials include Italian fare such as eggplant parmesan sandwiches, lasagna or spaghetti and meat sauce, but sandwiches, wings and salads are also on the menu -- along with homemade ice cream.

Annie's is a family venture that includes son Adam and grandson Joseph, who is 11. Ray's family is always growing -- he opens his heart to anyone in need because he knows he may one day be on the receiving end.

"I will do with less to give to someone else -- that's the way I was raised," said Ray, who on opening day offered everything on his menu for free. Donations were accepted for Christian ministries -- ministries Anne continues to support with her tips.

Annie's Pizzeria also reaches out to the community's seniors and students, and will soon be cooking for Abraham Connection homeless shelter once a week.

Ray and his family answer to a higher power by reaching out to those in need. "It's all about action," said Ray, who is unswerving in his desire to make his actions reflect his belief in God.

Because of his beliefs, Ray said he can not make a profit on AppleFest (a weekend event) so he's opening up his restaurant for nonprofits to raise money. Several two-hour slots have already been reserved by high school sports teams, but there are still some shifts available.

Ray is also joining forces with other Cedarege eateries to host a "tasting" event later this month, and this week is offering carriage rides from 6 to 8. "As a community we can lift each other up," he said. "I'm big into community."

Annie's Pizzeria is open 9 am. to 7 p.m. Monday-Friday, with breakfast served from 9 to 10:30, and a full lunch/dinner menu available from 11 a.m. to closing. Currently the restaurant is closed Saturday and Sunday, but when football season starts Ray plans to open Sunday for games on the big screen.

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Surface Creek
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