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At Pasta Plus in Laurel, a silver anniversary for the woman behind the noodles

Maria Mejia prepares crepes in the kitchen at Pasta Plus in Laurel. She's celebrating her 25th year at the restaurant.
Maria Mejia prepares crepes in the kitchen at Pasta Plus in Laurel. She's celebrating her 25th year at the restaurant. (Doug Kapustin / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

In a back corner of Pasta Plus in Laurel restaurant, Maria Mejia reigns supreme.

With seemingly little effort, Mejia’s hands fly over balls of dough, creating the restaurant’s specialty homemade noodles from scratch, including spaghetti, linguine, fettuccine and ravioli.

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Her expertise doesn’t stop there.

Celebrating her 25th year with the restaurant, Mejia is also responsible for making the thin crepes that are the backbone of the restaurant’s unique dishes, including cannelloni (crepes stuffed with veal and vegetables), timballo alla termamo (crepes with ground beef, mozzarella and tomato sauce) and crespoline (crepes stuffed with spinach and ricotta cheese).

“It is really a typical dish for Abruzzi. It is done only in this area, the province where we come from,” said Max Mazziotti, who co-owns the restaurant on Gorman Avenue just off Route 1 with his brother Sabatino. “It takes a long time to make crepes one by one.”

For Mejia, making the crepes means moving quickly between several frying pans, dropping spoonfuls of batter into them and quickly tilting the pans back and forth to coat.

“She’s pretty good,” Max Mazziotti mused as Mejia worked, snatching a hot crepe from a plate where she was stacking them.

“They’re good,” he said.

Of course, Mazziotti believes everything on the menu at Pasta Plus is good. From its beginnings 36 years ago as a fast-food pasta restaurant to its evolution into a full-fledged Italian restaurant, Pasta Plus has had a loyal customer base because of its homemade dishes.

“Since we’ve opened up, there have been lines,” Mazziotti said. “We’ve been lucky.”

Mazziotti runs the front of the house, handling the staff and customers and his brother runs the kitchen, overseeing everything from the brick-oven pizza to the homemade bread and pastas.

“I make everything right here,” Mejia said, in her corner filled with two pasta cutting machines, flour, cornstarch, eggs and more. “This was my first job. I started with salads.”

Under the guidance of the restaurant’s original noodle maker, Nanella Mazziotti, Max and Sabatino’s mother, Mejia learned how to make the dough and use the pasta makers.

“She always made pasta since we opened up," Mazziotti said of his mother, who died in 1992 from cancer.

“You couldn’t find a better mother than we had, or father," Sabatino Mazziotti said. “When you get older, you realize what you had. Unbelievable.”

Mejia makes pasta not only for the restaurant, but for the restaurant 's market. She also makes two types of crepes — one batter has milk, the other water — to create the dishes from Abruzzi.

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“The first time, oh no!” Mejia said, of crepe making. “Now, it is fast.”

Originally from Mexico, Mejia never had eaten pasta, let alone made it.

“My first day for lunch, I eat fresh spaghetti,” Mejia said. “It is very good. I love the pastas and the bread.”

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