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Columbia’s Turn House owner launches food truck, plans to open another restaurant next year

After four years of owning The Turn House, a farm-to-table from-scratch restaurant in Columbia, owner Thomas Zippelli says, he wanted to expand and honor his Italian roots.

“I’m Italian. And I grew up with Italian food, and I’m very excited about it,” said Zippelli, who has dual Italian and American citizenship. His family is from southern and northern Italy. He has been to the country more than half a dozen times in his life.

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Thomas Zippelli holds a Margherita pizza outside his Ricciutis Kitchen pizza truck.
Thomas Zippelli holds a Margherita pizza outside his Ricciutis Kitchen pizza truck. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun)

“I’m very excited about cooking Italian food outside of my house,” he said.

His affinity for Italy boils down to a few of factors.

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“It’s the food. And the wine is not far behind. It’s a bit of a vibe when you go [visit] too. It’s very romantic,” he said.

The 31-year-old restaurateur launched Ricciuti’s Pizza Truck at the end of July. It has been selling more than 200 pizzas a night, he said.

Zippelli also plans to open an Italian-themed restaurant in Olney focused on seasonality. Salt and Vine is expected to debut in June 2021.

“We’ll have a seasonally adjusted menu. We’re going to be doing some fun stuff outside of pizza,” Zippelli said.

A Margherita pizza comes out of the oven inside the Ricciutis Kitchen pizza truck. The truck is outside the closed Ricciutis Kitchen which is being renovated for a new restaurant, Salt and Vine.
A Margherita pizza comes out of the oven inside the Ricciutis Kitchen pizza truck. The truck is outside the closed Ricciutis Kitchen which is being renovated for a new restaurant, Salt and Vine. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun)

He also says he will have “really cool Italian wines, brick-oven pizzas and fresh pasta.”

Zippelli, who lives in Glenelg, says he will start developing the menu this fall with a goal of expanding beyond Americanized Italian cuisine.

“It’s one of the cuisines that’s so popular in America,” he said. “I think it often gets presented on a surface level. But I think a lot of these really awesome cooking traditions get pushed to the side. Having this wood-burning oven is a game changer. It will be the heart and soul of the kitchen."

Zippelli is excited about debuting a sourdough pizza dough. He also wants to tap into his family’s heritage and cook dishes from southern Italy like eggplant and dairy-based meals during the summer.

He said he decided to expand this year because he hired executive chef Ben Lambert this summer for The Turn House.

“Now he is running with it,” Zippelli said. “It’s running pretty smoothly at The Turn House. It was time to expand for the sake of an entrepreneurial adventure. The food truck is fun.”

Lambert, 41, brings 22 years of restaurant experience — 15 as an executive chef — to Howard County.

Ricciutis Kitchen pizza truck sits outside the historic Olney House, the former home of Ricciutis Kitchen. The building is being renovated and a new restaurant, Salt and Vine, is slated to open in June 2021.
Ricciutis Kitchen pizza truck sits outside the historic Olney House, the former home of Ricciutis Kitchen. The building is being renovated and a new restaurant, Salt and Vine, is slated to open in June 2021. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun)

“I’m just seasoned,” said the Savage Mill resident, who has had stints cooking in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.

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It remains to be seen who will be the head chef of the new restaurant. Zippelli said he’s considering running the kitchen himself. Lambert might also train a new chef and run the kitchen himself.

“I’m sure I’ll lend some knowledge,” said Lambert. “We haven’t figured that out yet. I have a lot of experience making pizza and pasta."

The historic Olney House, the former home of Ricciutis Kitchen, is undergoing renovations. A new restaurant, Salt and Vine, is scheduled to open in June 2021.
The historic Olney House, the former home of Ricciutis Kitchen, is undergoing renovations. A new restaurant, Salt and Vine, is scheduled to open in June 2021. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun)

Constructing a new look

Zippelli described the new restaurant as a “massive construction project” of the historic Olney House. It housed the iconic Ricciuti’s Kitchen for more than two decades.

“They are reframing the entire thing from the inside,” he said.

Zippelli is working to maximize the outdoor capacity of the 200-seat restaurant.

“That was very important to me,” he said. "We’re not jamming in tables. They are going to be nice and spread out.”

Because of social distancing, Zippelli also plans to add a second-floor outdoor seating area.

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