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The restaurant where real Italian mothers rule the kitchen

Editor’s Note – Forget what you think you know about British cuisine. This Sunday at 8 p.m. ET “In Search of Italy,” Stanley Tucci explores how Italian immigration has transformed the culinary scene in his adopted hometown of London.

(CNN) — Like many Italians living abroad, Peppe Corsaro missed his mother’s cooking.

Born in Sicily, he moved to London at the age of 16 and soon began to yearn for the flavors and traditions of his home, especially the lively Sunday lunch when mothers and grandmothers cooked meals timeless for an outdoor marathon feast that could easily overflow. in the evening hours.

After a career in the restaurant business, Corsaro was enjoying a night out with friends when one of them jokingly suggested he should bring his mother over to cook.

He took it seriously.

“I thought, why not? So I called my mom and asked her. She said, ‘I’ll come tomorrow.'”

This is how La Mia Mamma began. The restaurant was launched as a pop-up in 2018, before becoming a pair of restaurants and a delicatessen today.

mom’s kitchen

Mamma Emilia makes pasta. Each mom spends about three months working in the restaurant.

Daniel Ogulewicz

The principle is simple: real Italian mothers and grandmothers are recruited in one of the 20 regions of Italy.

They then move to London for a three-month residency, showcasing their own traditional recipes based on their local cuisine, before handing over the chef’s hat to a new brigade of mammas from another region.

It’s an interesting setup, as food in Italy varies wildly based on geography.

The restaurant where real Italian mothers rule the kitchen

La Mia Mamma recruits real Italian mothers and grandmothers for residencies in its London restaurants.

Giulia Verdinelli

Although many dishes typically associated with Italian cuisine – lasagne, tortellini, prosciutto crudo, ragù, parmigiana – all come from the same region, Emilia-Romagna, there is an abundance of varieties and hidden gems to be discovered elsewhere, often in places that would be off the beaten path for most tourists.

As of this writing, La Mia Mamma focuses on Campania and Lazio, two adjacent regions in southwestern Italy, which host Naples and Rome respectively.

Traditional recipes

The restaurant where real Italian mothers rule the kitchen

A selection of dishes from Abruzzo, a relatively underrepresented cuisine from a region on the southeastern Adriatic coast.

Giulia Verdinelli

Lazio cuisine has taken center stage in recent years, with classics such as carbonara, amatriciana and cacio e pepe, a deceptively simple pasta dish made with just four ingredients, which is makes it one of the most difficult to prepare due to its delicate process.

But the region’s “cucina popolare,” or comfort food, also includes lesser-known specialties such as coda alla vaccinara, an oxtail stew that’s hard to find outside of Lazio itself.

Each restaurant has three moms, who are first projected to Italy via social media.

“We are not looking for professional chefs, but housewives who cook for their families,” explains Corsaro, adding that the selected candidates are then flown to London for a trial, after which they are given accommodation, a transport and a salary, comparable to that of a sous-chef.

Most mammas, usually in their 60s and often retired, have never lived abroad before.

They all bring their own recipes and ensure they are executed to perfection, with the help of experienced kitchen staff.

Three-month residencies

The restaurant where real Italian mothers rule the kitchen

View of one of the restaurants. Both are located in Chelsea, London.

Daniel Ogulewicz

Their presence is not limited to the menu; the kitchens are visible from the street, so passers-by can catch a glimpse of the mammas at work, and they are happy to mingle with the patrons.

“You see them everywhere. They are always there, encouraging people to try everything they have cooked. They will even dance with the guests,” says Corsaro.

The sites are all located in the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, where Italians are one of the largest groups of foreign residents and contributed the most new residents in the years leading up to the Brexit referendum in 2016.

So far, no mum has ever been rejected after the trial, and they have all adjusted well to city life in London, albeit with some tweaks.

The restaurant where real Italian mothers rule the kitchen

Corsaro with his mother Anna Famà, left, the original “mamma” and Mamma Sara.

The Mia Mamma

“They always tell me that the city is too big, that they are not used to being on the road for an hour to go somewhere, so you have to find accommodation for them near restaurants,” explains Anna Famà, Corsaro’s mother, and the mother of origin.

After her passing, she decided to stay and now acts as an ambassador for incoming mums, helping them settle in.

“It’s never happened that a mom left happy to leave, and those who left often ask me when they can come back,” says Famà, adding that although cooking for 200 people can get hectic, there is always a relaxed atmosphere in the kitchen. .

“If something is wrong, we can always fix it,” she says. “To me, it’s not a job, it’s my home. I hope I pass that on to the mammas.”

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