Couple Transforms Vacant Walla Walla Building into Papi’s Pizza & Pasta

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George and Tami Arias are transforming the former Mr. Ed’s building on East Isaacs Avenue in Walla Walla, WA, into Papi’s Pizza & Pasta. They plan to open the family-friendly restaurant in July, offering pizza, pasta, wings, and salads with gluten-free and vegetarian options.

Papi’s Pizza & Pasta: A New Beginning

Since 2022, the former building that housed Mr. Ed’s, a longtime Walla Walla mainstay, has sat vacant. Its kitchen was stripped, and its drive-in parking lot was empty. The restaurant has not served food to Walla Walla locals for years.

Walla Walla residents George and Tami Arias plan to change that. The couple, who own Crown Donuts in Maple Valley, bought the building and are converting it into a pizza place. The new owners hope to open Papi’s Pizza & Pasta in July.

Their venture into food service began about five years ago when Tami decided to leave her job as a diabetes educator nurse to buy and operate a donut shop. They were looking for business opportunities and found a donut shop for sale in Maple Valley, which they bought and Tami ran. Their son and daughter-in-law, who lived in Seattle at the time, have since moved back to Walla Walla.

Building on Experience

George, a Walla Walla physical therapist nearing retirement, enjoyed making pizza during his time working at Abby’s Pizza in Milton-Freewater before it closed. He wants to bring a family-friendly casual pizza dining experience to Walla Walla.

The couple believes that with the knowledge Tami has gained running the donut shop, they can make another food establishment a success. They bought the old Mr. Ed’s building after it closed, knowing they wanted to open something new there. Initially considering another donut shop, they decided to go with pizza due to the challenges of adding a drive-thru window.

Creating the Perfect Pizza Place

They purchased a pizza oven and began experimenting with dough recipes to perfect their pizza. They also started refurbishing the building, buying all new equipment since the building had been stripped. They converted the drive-in area to an outdoor patio, allowing for 75 seats inside and another 75 outside.

As they finish work on the building and work to get permits and comply with health department requirements, they are getting closer to deciding on an opening date. They plan to hire at least 15 employees and aim to open by mid-July.

A Family Legacy

The restaurant will serve pizza, pasta, wings, salads, and more, with gluten-free and vegetarian options. Their target audience is Walla Walla families looking for good food in a family atmosphere. They aim to keep prices affordable, filling a niche in Walla Walla for family-friendly dining.

The building had been a restaurant since the 1970s, originally an A&W before becoming Mr. Ed’s. The restaurant faced challenges, including a fire in 2009, but ultimately closed in 2022 when the owner retired.

The new name, Papi’s Pizza & Pasta, is in memory of George’s father, whom they called Papi. The restaurant honors his memory and the family tradition of gathering over food, hoping to create a place for Walla Walla families to come together.

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