Immigrant Profile: Natalia Nastovici by Becki L. Young

The October issue of Foodservice Monthly is on the scene and we'll be in Baltimore for the next two days … there columnist Becki L Young will be visiting the Foodservice Monthly Booth 747 at the Mid-Atlantic Food, Beverage & Lodging EXPO on Wednesday as the trade show kicks off at the Baltimore Convention Center. As a regular feature in her monthly Immigration Law column, Ms. Young has been sharing profiles of foodservice success stories.  

Becki Young has been working in the field of immigration law since 1995. Her practice focuses on employment-based immigration law. Ms. Young has represented employers in a variety of industries, including investment banking and securities, information technology, health care, and hospitality, providing advice on work permits and related immigration issues, and is the co-editor of Immigration Options for Essential Workers published by the American Immigration Lawyers Association. To learn more or to schedule a personal consultation, call 202-232-0983 or e-mail

PRETZEL & PIZZA CREATIONS with Natalia Nastovici

210 N Market Street

Frederick, Md.


From studying economics in
communist Romania to owning a thriving small restaurant in Frederick, Md.,
Natalia Nastovici’s life has changed dramatically over the past few decades.

Natalia and her daughter
Catie arrived in the United States in August 1998. They joined Natalia’s
then-husband, a documentary filmmaker who had defected from Romania in 1986,
and made his way toNATALIA 01 the U.S. through South Africa and then Spain. 

The family lived in New
York City for a few years, where they concluded that the key to success in
America was entrepreneurship. They decided to leave New York to find a small
American town where they could provide their daughter with a good education and
a true dose of “American culture.”

In 1991 Natalia’s sister
Afina Lupulescu, a geologist, came to visit from Romania.  Sightseeing tours were not on Afina’s
agenda; what she really wanted was to visit the Carnegie Foundation in
Washington DC. Natalia contacted the foundation to arrange a visit; she
accompanied her sister on the trip and decided DC was where she wanted to

Natalia sent her husband
and daughter to scout out a new home, and they chose Frederick, a small town
about 45 miles away from both Baltimore and Washington DC. Natalia felt right
at home in Frederick, which reminded her of her hometown in Romania (40 miles
away from the capital, Bucharest).

Although Natalia and her
husband had no experience in the restaurant business, they had a few
characteristics that led to their ultimate success: willingness to work hard, a
unique business idea, and an unwavering commitment to quality.  In 1992 they opened a soft gourmet
pretzel shop on North Market Street in historic Frederick. Natalia oversaw the
creative side of the business and her husband handled the administrative side.

Natalia says she and her
husband “were probably the only immigrants in Frederick at that point,” and she
is extremely grateful to the residents of Frederick for embracing them and
their business, and helping it grow over the years. As time passed the
restaurant introduced new menu items including ice cream, calzones, hot dogs
wrapped in pretzel dough and cheese, and finally pizza. This last menu item was
a challenge – Natalia wanted to serve “real Italian pizza with real Italian
pizza sauce” based on a recipe she found in an old Italian cookbook– but the
customers complained about the onions in the sauce, so she took them out, and continued
to tweak the recipe, adding her own spices, until she came up with the current
version, which was and continues to be a big hit.

As housing prices increased
in the nearby suburbs of DC and Baltimore throughout the 90’s, more people
began moving to Frederick – and soon Natalia and her husband found they were no
longer the only immigrants in town. After a few years the restaurant became “a
destination” – historic Frederick is largely a walking town so Natalia and her
husband knew they had made it when they noticed that customers were driving to
the restaurant!

Natalia says that only two
other restaurants in Frederick have been around as long as
Pretzel &
Pizza Creations
: Bushwaller’s (an
Irish pub), and The Orchard (a vegetarian restaurant). Most of the current
restaurants serve some variation on American food, although there is now a
Cuban restaurant and a few Mexican ones.

A true entrepreneur,
Natalia has ambitious plans for expansion of Pretzel & Pizza Creations, and
is interested in finding investors/partners to help her with this goal. Her
motto is “fresh and on the spot; nothing frozen ever.” The Fredericktonians
have taken to her products and she believes others will, too. 

Natalia, her former husband
and her daughter Catie have all become US citizens; Natalia recalls her 1991
naturalization ceremony in Frederick with fondness; she says many of her
customers came to watch the ceremony and show their support. Catie graduated
from Syracuse University with a degree in English & Business Management in
2007; she is now a Manhattan-based marketing representative for Flying Dog Brewery, 
a Frederick microbrewery. Natalia’s sister Afina also
immigrated to the US; she has since received her PhD and become a US

For immigrants who want to
follow in her footsteps, Natalia advises them to “work hard, be serious, and
know what they want to do and where they want to go.” As for the immigrants she
has hired over the years, she has only positive things to say; the foreigners
on her staff have been uniformly reliable, serious, and grateful for the
opportunity to work in this country.



About the Author

Michael Birchenall is Editor and Publisher of Foodservice Monthly, a regional trade publication covering the foodservice industry of the Mid-Atlantic (DE, DC, MD, VA). Foodservice Monthly has been recognized as the Restaurant Association of Maryland's Allied Industry Member of the Year and by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington as the Joan Hisaoka Associate Member of the Year.

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