Peggy Ann Albano, who helped launch Mary’s Pizza Shack, dies at 85
Sonoma Valley resident Peggy Ann Albano was seemingly everywhere at once — willingly jumping in to help with bookkeeping, serve customers, cook or do whatever else was needed to help the family business get off the ground.
Her many contributions helped to establish Mary’s Pizza Shack as a beloved family restaurant at its initial location in Boyes Hot Springs, eventually paving the way for 19 other Mary’s restaurants in Sonoma Valley and other parts of the Bay Area.
So, when she passed away in her Sonoma home of natural causes on Jan. 11 at the age of 85, surrounded by her family, the loss was felt by people throughout Sonoma Valley. Yet to those who knew her best, she is remembered even more for her kindness and guidance than for her vital contributions to the restaurants.
“Our mother was lively, kind, and always had a warm smile when approached by anyone,” said Marie Albano, one of her four children. “Throughout our lives, friends would approach each one of us siblings to say that our mother had given them guidance and words of wisdom that they carried forward into their lives.
“The one common thread we all heard was that she told them to always be kind and patient with themselves, which is when we would say, ‘Well, that’s my mom.’”
Peggy was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and when she was 4 years old, her family moved to Hawaii, where her father was stationed a as a chief petty officer for the U.S. Navy. When Peggy was 15 years old, her father retired and the family moved to Sonoma Valley, where she attended Sonoma Valley High School. Peggy remained in Sonoma for the remainder of her life.
While attending high school, she worked in a soda fountain restaurant on the Sonoma Plaza. She also fell in love with another Sonoma Valley High School student, Anthony “Toto” Albano, and they married in March of 1955, shortly after they graduated.
Toto’s mother, Mary Fazio, founded the original Mary’s Pizza Shack in Boyes Hot Springs in 1959. Shortly afterward, Toto and Peggy began working for the family business.
“Peggy was able to perform most positions, and jumped in willingly,” Marie said. “She also worked part-time as a teller at Wells Fargo Bank during the lean times, when establishing the family business. Plus, let’s not forget … with all that, she was lovingly raising four kids.”
Peggy and Toto continued to work for Mary’s Pizza Shack as the company grew. Toto took over daily operations in 1978 and retired in 2000.
At one point, Mary’s had 20 restaurants, including a fast-casual concept Slice Shack by Mary’s, which still operates on the Sonoma Square. The company now has nine restaurants, including the Boyes Hot Springs location, but in a much larger building than the original restaurant.
“In recent years, we’ve closed a few locations as we’ve worked toward restructuring our family business to remain adaptive to the increasing challenges that all restaurants are weathering,” Marie said.
When she wasn’t working, Peggy loved to play cards, read, play on a local tennis team and spend time with her pets.
“My mother loved being a pet owner,” Marie said. “I don’t remember a time when she did not have pets. Her pets were the luckiest animals, to be cared for by her.”
Mary could often be seen munching on her favorite Mary’s dish: spaghetti with clams.
She also loved traveling to Italy, which she did several times with her family.
“But mostly, she enjoyed spending her time caring for her large family,” Marie said.
In 2018, Peggy and other family members collaborated on “Mary’s Italian Family Cookbook,” a 256-page hardcover tome. The following year, she joined other family members and a few friends in celebrating the 60-year anniversary of the family business.
In 2021, Peggy, Toto and their son, Vince Albano, received the The Mulas Family Recognition Award on behalf of Mary’s Pizza Shack at Sonoma Valley High School’s Dragon Hall of Fame ceremony. The award honors people, families or businesses who have contributed time and/or resources to ensure the Valley’s students, athletes and coaches have the support necessary to have successful seasons and experiences.
Peggy is survived by her children — Marie Albano, Nanette Albano-Lane, Terri Albano-Williamson and Vince Albano — who are all owners of the family business.
She is also survived by her two sisters, Linda Dunseth and Toni Shweiky, and had 10 grandchildren: Chase Williamson, Reese Williamson, Elysse Lane, Taylor Lane, Graziano Dito, Luigi Dito, the late Anthony Christian Albano, Vincent Albano, Isabella Albano and Dominic Albano.
Peggy had four great-grandchildren, Luca Cullen Williamson, Sloane Williamson, Joaquin Garcia Buerba and Scarlett Ballinger.
“My mother will be sorely missed by her husband, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” Marie said. “We all have a piece of her heart and memory that will carry forward for generations to come. We are so grateful we are her children, and so happy we knew our mom as our friend.”
The family is planning a private memorial service. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Pets Lifeline animal shelter in Sonoma.
Reach the reporter, Dan Johnson, at firstname.lastname@example.org.