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I Remember Mamma

Italian mothers have always been a secret weapon in the New York restaurateur’s arsenal. The famous and the infamous:

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Nicolina DiSpirito, last seen rolling meatballs at son Rocco’s ill-fated restaurant, rebuffed an offer from his estranged business partner, Jeffrey Chodorow, to open a place of her own, choosing instead to co-author Rocco’s Italian-American, make appearances on Rocco’s radio show, and sell her meatballs on QVC.

The Le Madri Three: Margherita Aloi, who was 18 when Pino Luongo recruited her—“my father had to sign my passport”—went on to open Arezzo, and is gearing up for Providence, a “coastal European” restaurant in the old Le Bar Bat space. Of her compatriots, she says, “Bruna Alessandria went back to Italy. And Maria Amato—she was living in Brooklyn.”

Dora Marzovilla, whose son owns i Trulli: After the former chef left to open his own place, Marzovilla resumed her maternal role, making orecchiette, maccheroncini, and the rest of her Pugliese pasta every morning.

Rosa Maria Polidori, mother of Cesare Casella and semiannual guest chef at Beppe. “She loves to be in the restaurant,” says her son, who planned a second, smaller kitchen for her when he built Beppe. “She waits till one or two o’clock in the morning to go home with me.” Regulars anticipate her arrival—and her ribollita.

Lidia Bastianich turned a humble Queens restaurant into an empire. Now more entrepreneur than chef, she limits her cooking to TV and Sunday family dinner.

Honorary Mammas:
Mark Strausman, reunited with Pino Luongo at Coco Pazzo.
Sam DeMarco, consulting chef at Nonna.
Arthur Schwartz, Brooklyn-born “Food Maven” and Italophile.
Mario Batali, Supermamma.
Frank Crispo, chef-owner of Crispo and spiritual adviser to mamma-wannabes like Frank Castronovo and Frank Falcinelli of Frankies 457 Spuntino.

Hot Mamma


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