- Sally Pollak
- Sara Rooke serves an eggplant parmesan hero at Mimmo's
Instead, I ran across Shelburne Road — praying mid-dash there was no car on the far side of the Jeep Cherokee I couldn’t see past. I made it.
I was surprised to find a full parking lot at Mimmo’s at 7 p.m. on a Tuesday. The dining room was full, too, pulsing with a happy-sounding crowd. I found a seat at the end of the bar, where I was treated to a favorite view: cooks at work.
I watched the pizza guy spread ricotta on rounds of dough, and saw a line cook salt the ingredients in her sauté pans. The highlight of the show was flames shooting from a pan of penne alla vodka, a dramatic blaze produced by chef-owner Domenico Spano. He opened his first Mimmo's in St. Albans in 1995, naming it with the nickname his mother gave him more than four decades ago in Torrito, Italy.
I turned away from my view of the spiffy kitchen to look down at the menu, and chose on an eggplant parmesan hero ($9.25) and a pint of Switchback. While I waited for my food, two women who work at the restaurant, which opened a month ago, raved about working at Mimmo's. They said they're treated like they're part of the family.
Lindsey Lowell, a delivery driver, said Spano gave her money from his pocket when she was “stiffed” on a catering delivery. He solicits and listens to input from employees, she said. “He takes everyone’s ideas,” Lowell said. “I love it here.”
- Sally Pollak
- Penne alla vodka ablaze in the Mimmo's kitchen
Rooke delivered my sandwich with a flair worthy of the little package of classic Italian-American flavors — garlic, parmesan, breading, red sauce — piled on my bread. She stopped by to talk as I ate my meal, making me feel like I was part of the family.
“I’m a broke college student and I would love to dine on a dime, or even a nickel," Rooke said. "Can you do a nickel for me?”
When there was a lull in the kitchen action, Spano came out to the bar and we talked for a bit. He told me he left his home in southern Italy — where his father farmed olives, grapes, almonds and legumes — at age 14 to live with relatives in Long Island.
“I cried when I left,” said Spano, who learned English at high school in New York. “But I wanted to make a future.”
At his new restaurant, he's back in the kitchen — prepping, cooking, mopping, training — after years of mostly office work managing his restaurants in St. Albans and Essex. Spano plans to throw a grand opening party on Saturday, October 19, three days before his 49th birthday.
“I just can’t help myself,” Spano said of his decision to open a third Mimmo's. “I love building crews and restaurants. It gives me gioia di vivere.”