If you like Italian home cooking, Mama’s is the place
By Jennifer Kornegay
If you’re hungry for some cornbread, collard greens or maybe a good ole hamburger, don’t go to Mama Misitano’s Place. If you’re seeking a fancy atmosphere and servers fawning over you, don’t go to Mama Misitano’s Place. If you want some good Italian home cooking, do go to Mama Misitano’s Place.
And when you do go, don’t complain too loudly about the garlic or the amount of basil in the Alfredo sauce. The many regulars around you are loyal; they like what this little eatery is serving up just fine, and some of them are probably armed. Mama’s is part of the Sand Mountain Shooting Club in Boaz, and its owners Dan and Jan Cooper are making Italian food the way their Italian grandmothers did. While they want make their customers happy, they aren’t about to fuss with their family’s time-tested flavors.
“Every now and then, someone will come in, and they don’t like garlic or onions, and I’m like, ‘Do you know where you are eating?’ Then others ask, ‘Got anything other than pasta?’ We don’t. We are an Italian restaurant,” says Dan.
Mama’s does offer items other than pasta on weekdays; in fact, it’s only on weekends that you can get a pasta dish. Tuesday through Friday, massive Italian sandwiches dominate the menu. “We do make a ham and cheese sandwich for kids,” Dan concedes, “since they’re young and don’t know what good food is yet.”
No matter what day you visit, there’s a good chance you’ll meet a member of Dan’s family. When his daughter is not in the kitchen with her mom, she’s a server. Her daughter also helps wait tables. It’s a true family business, with a family name. “We wanted to honor our heritage and so named the place after my wife’s grandmother,” Dan says.
They’re doing Mama proud, working from the recipes she and Dan’s grandmother made in their home country and in America once they came here. Everything is scratch-made. Jan bakes the bread fresh every morning; herbs and tomatoes come from a small garden patch out back.
The shooting club opened in the late 1970s, but Dan opened the restaurant in 1998. It all started when some of his customers at the gun range got hungry. “They wanted something to eat, and there’s not a lot to choose from in the area,” Dan says. “We decided to feed them and to feed them what we grew up on.”
Today, Mama’s draws more people coming just to eat than it does from the gun range, but no matter why they end up at the shooting club, they visit Mama’s for the food. Dan’s favorite dish happens to be pretty popular with diners too: the Italian Beef sandwich. Jan splits open a roll and fills it with sautéed peppers and onions and paper-thin sliced beef, slow-roasted in Italian herbs. It’s all covered under a blanket of melted provolone.
Other between-bread offerings include the Misitano Meatball, Chicken Italia and the Genoa Salami Panini. There are also pizzas on hand-tossed crust as well as salads, and carb-conscious folks can order any of the sandwiches sans bread; the tasty filling is simply served in a bowl. Desserts are another of Mama’s specialties, especially the Italian Cream Cake. Around the holidays, people order whole cakes and order enough to keep Jan baking from morning to night for days.
That’s during the week. On weekends, Mama’s pulls out all the stops for old-school Sunday dinners, which include a range of pasta dishes served family style. “We do those the same way we ate on Sundays; it’s traditional Italian,” Dan says.
You’ll have no choice but to observe the “day of rest” literally after filling up on Mama’s unique, yet still rich, Alfredo sauce. “We make it a bit different. We add pesto that’s made with basil from our garden to the sauce,” Dan said. “I’d put that stuff on my cornflakes it’s so good.” Cereal Alfredo is not currently on the menu, but that’s okay. It also goes well with pasta.
Eat at Mama’s
Mama Misitano’s Place
626 Bloodworth Road, Boaz, AL