Mama Mia, it’s Mama Jo’s!

May 28, 2002 4:53 AM

At Mama Jo’s, there’s a little bit of Sopranos and a lot of good eating.

"There are many good fast food restaurants in this area, but I don’t consider it food," said John Muccio, executive chef at Mama Jo’s (3655 S. Durango). "We are a pasta house that caters to the dinner business. If people want to really eat, they come to a restaurant. That’s us."

Mama Joe’s has been in existence for six years with Muccio beginning his fourth year at the popular restaurant after stints at Romeo’s and Ferraro’s.

"We are cooking for a lot of the same people in this town that were at Romeo’s and Ferraro’s," said Muccio, who came to Las Vegas 16 years ago from New York where he graduated first in his class at the Culinary School. "I’m Italian, so I guess we’re able to keep the authenticity of what we cook."

Mama Jo’s does a steady lunch and takeout business, but it is dinner where the restaurant thrives.

"We have been very fortunate to see the Summerlin crowd come this far south to eat," Muccio said. "This is a beautiful area with an awesome view of the park. The summer nights are incredible. Young couples, people with some money. All we ask is that you make reservations in advance. We’ll make sure you get fed. Any friend of Chuck Di Rocco’s is a friend of mine."

There is a staff of 25 persons, all polite, friendly and efficient. Muccio heads a team of four chefs that goes out of their way to make sure customers are comfortable with both their food selections and those preparing the meal.

"We are a pasta house that does a lot of orders for meatballs and spaghetti," said Sean Kennelley, general manager at Mama Jo’s, who happens to be Irish. "I guess I am the entertainment portion for everyone. The Irish and Italians can indeed mix and produce a restaurant that makes everyone feel at home."

Muccio, 37, is a product of his own creation, living a single life within a few blocks of the restaurant.

"I am married to the job and love every minute of it," he said. "Food is the best way to a woman’s heart. I don’t own one pot and pan at home. I have no silverware. When I want something to eat, I come here. Why would I want to eat anywhere else?"

The restaurant specialties include fresh fish, muscles, clams, pasta, wine and upscale pizza.

"We are not a pizza place, which I don’t mean to say in a bad way," he said. "We have pizza on the menu but upgraded into many other dishes. Here, we believe in serving large portions. Most people get cartons to take the food home with them."

Mama Jo’s seats 70 people and management wants to keep it that way, although there is available room for expansion next door.

"We like being cozy and comfortable," Muccio said. "We have had Rich Little, Ringo Starr and Brooke Shields eat here, but our real celebrities are the customers. We know them on a first name basis and that’s really why we don’t want to expand and lose the familiarity."

Mama Jo’s has another restaurant in Green Valley and there are plans in the works to build another site in Los Angeles.

"In 10 years, we may be more popular than McDonalds," Muccio said, smiling. "For right now, we are all about food. We put value in our buck here."

Mama’s Specialties ”” lunch
(served with Mama Jo’s house salad)
Caesar’s Salad $1.50 extra

Eggplant Parmigiana
served with a side of linguine


Chicken Parmigiana
chicken breast with mozzarella and marinara
served with pasta


Meatball Parmigiana
meatballs and marinara


Pastas — spaghetti, linguine, fettuccini, penne, rigatoni, farfalle
(add $1) to the following specialty pastas: tortellini,
potato gnocchi, cheese ravioli, angel hair.


Mama Jo’s House Salad
fresh mixed greens tossed in the house balsamic vinaigrette


Mama Jo’s Garlic Bread
Italian bread topped with mozzarella and served with marinara


Mama’s Specialties ”” dinner
(served with Mama Jo’s house salad)
$1.95 extra for crumbled Bleu Cheese,Feta Cheese or Caesar

Traditional meatballs and spaghetti


Eggplant Parmigiana
served with a side of linguine


Chicken Parmigiana
served over a bed of linguini


Veal Parmigiana
scaloppini, lightly breaded and covered with Mama Jo’s marinara and mozzarella


Steak Pizziola
pan seared 10 oz. rib eye with peppers,
onions in a burgundy marinara