Mama’s Meatball serves up much more than Italian cuisine
While working in England, Nicola Allegretta, owner of Mama’s Meatball Fine Italian Restaurant & Global Catering, had a regular customer for whom he prepared his mother’s meatball recipe. The customer loved the dish, and Nicola replied, “This is the way my mother makes it.” It was then that the name of Nicola’s future restaurant was created. “We all know that nobody cooks like mama,” he says. “Our restaurant is all about home cooking, and good food made from scratch – the way it is supposed to be. You won’t find anything out of a can here.”
Nicola got his start cooking at age 12, when (without permission from his parents), he started working at a local pizza place in his hometown of Molfetta in Bari, which is located on “the heel of the boot” in Italy. This was his first experience preparing food for a large number of people. After finishing school at 18 years old, he worked as a sous chef for a large catering company in Italy. He continued his career by working under accomplished chefs in France, England, Germany, Morocco, the Dominican Republic, and in 1999 moved to Florida.
In 2006, Nicola opened Mama’s Meatball. Within weeks, what started as a to-go catering stop had evolved into a full sit-down restaurant and catering company. The business is very much a family affair. Nicola’s wife and partner, Jackeline, serves as the Catering and Event Design Specialist for Mama’s Meatball. Nicola’s mother makes all of the cakes, desserts, and gelato for the restaurant, and his father makes all of the sauces. Nicola and Jackeline’s children, who are five and six-years-old, love to accompany their parents on grocery store trips and are already starting to learn their way around the kitchen.
Mama’s Meatball Global Catering is thriving. They are consistently given top honors from nationally respected wedding websites such as The Knot and Wedding Wire. “On the catering side we do prepare Italian food – but we don’t stop there,” says Jackeline. Their catering options are endless, from Peruvian (where Jackeline hails from) to BBQ to Cuban to Pan Asian to French. “Whatever a client wants, we can create – and if I don’t know how to make it, I will learn,” says Nicola.
Once, in preparation for a wedding at which sushi was on the menu, Nicola got together with neighbors Goshi Japanese Restaurant to learn how to make sushi rolls the authentic way. “They came over at 5 in the morning one day to teach me how to make sushi,” says Nicola. “It is important for me to learn the culturally authentic way to prepare every dish that I make.” Recently, they catered a wedding with an entirely gluten-free menu. Nicola’s extensive world travel taught him a deep appreciation and respect for all cultures and cuisines, and this clearly shines through in his food.
“There is a love involved in what we do. It is how we connect with our clients,” says Jackeline. “We are passionate about food and giving a good experience to each customer. We want to know what they like and what we can do to make each individual happy.” Jackeline and Nicola take pride in getting to know each one of their clients. They keep in touch long past a wedding and are overjoyed to hear about new babies or life changes down the line. “Through our business, we build a lot of friendship and love,” says Jackeline.
Mama’s Meatball does not only cater wedding-related events – they are happy to provide the food for any event under the sun. They recently catered a 7th birthday party on the beach with their new, mobile wood-fired pizza oven. Other catering services include charity events, birthday parties, winemaker dinners, and corporate luncheons. “Our goal for our events is to reflect the personality of each person,” says Nicola. Jackeline’s background is in design and architecture, and her event services include rentals and event design.
“My dream had always been to open a plaza featuring a restaurant each for all the places that I have lived and cooked (Italy, Germany, France, South America),” says Nicola. “When we began catering weddings, I realized I could do that all from one kitchen.”
For a home-style meal like Mama makes or five-star catering, visit Mama’s Meatball at 570 Higuera Street (located inside The Creamery) from 10:30am to 10pm daily. They can be reached by phone at (805) 544-0861 or online at mamasmeatball.com, and are also on Facebook and Twitter. For information on Wedding and Event Catering, Jackeline can be contacted directly at (805) 704-3744.
— Laura E. Zolnoski