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Flavor of Italy

Stacco House by Mammamia Features Authentic Italian Fare

Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photographer / Amy Payne

When Lucio Romani came to the United States 25 years ago, he was disappointed that he could never find decent ice cream or gelato without traveling to Little Italy in New York or Chicago. In the back of his mind, he kept thinking he’d open his own gelato establishment. That’s when Mammamia Gelato was born.

A veteran in the restaurant business, having owned and operated Carmel’s Ristorante Roma, he stayed plenty busy through the years. In the summer of 2016, Romani and his longtime friend from Italy, Stefano Gangitano, set up a small gelato stand in the back of Ristorante Roma on the Monon Trail. They wanted to gauge community interest in such a shop, and it was well-received. The city of Carmel embraced their handmade gelato, prompting the pair to open Mammamia Gelato, a brick-and-mortar establishment, in the summer of 2017, with Christine Jourdan acting as manager. Gangitano lives in Italy with his family and typically comes here for a few months every summer.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the gelato shop had in-store seating where customers could choose from 16 flavors of handmade, small-batch gelato – eight flavors were water-based and vegan, while eight flavors were milk-based – made in the store daily with a machine that Romani imported from Italy. The shop also had fresh-ground Italian espresso for cappuccinos, mochas, caffe lattes and more. Their pastry case was filled with sweets like Italian cookies and cakes that Jourdan baked in-house.

After selling Ristorante Roma to his niece and her husband, Romani had more time to focus on the gelato shop, and he began to conceive a plan to add more Italian food items to Mammamia.

When COVID-19 hit, Romani had to close the doors to Mammamia Gelato. When it reopened, he transitioned to call-ahead and curbside service. When it became clear that the coronavirus wasn’t going away any time soon, he and his staff decided it was an optimal time to transform Mammamia into a new concept, called Stacco House by Mammamia, which will continue to offer gelato, coffee, cookies and pastries, and add Italian food, carry-out wine, and specialty Italian products like olive oils, meats, breads and cheeses.

“I love to cook and wanted to add dishes from my childhood,” says Romani, noting that all the recipes come from his mom. “When choosing menu items, I close my eyes and think back to the dishes she used to make every Sunday like seafood lasagna and lasagna with meat sauce. They are all very simple but extremely tasty. It doesn’t just fill your stomach when you eat it. It fills your heart.”

Romani and Jourdan met with Mario Rizzotti, a judge on the Food Network’s “Iron Chef America” show and owner of Real Italian Gourmet Corner, about including some of his Italian truffle oils, wildflower honey with truffle, and varieties of specialty jams for purchase.

“We wanted to create a space where people could create their meals a million different ways each visit, and really experience unique Italian foods as if they were on holiday in Italy,” Jourdan says.

The Stacco House concept does not currently include indoor seating, but in the future the staff hopes to have a few tables in the front of the store and also build a front patio.

Customers can order takeout and delivery through the eatery’s online ordering system.

There are several different lasagna and pasta dishes. The menu will include salads, eggplant parmesan, suppli (seasoned tomato risotto stuffed with mozzarella and deep-fried), polpette (a meatball in tomato sauce), baked tomato stuffed with seasoned risotto, multiple panini options and more. Gelato, coffee, cookies and pastries are available through the eatery’s online ordering system.

“We have some specialty items like affogato (gelato drowned in a shot of espresso), cornetto con gelato, and our custom-made gelato cakes,” says Jourdan, who makes all of the pastries, unique Italian cookies, gelato and more.

Stacco House enables locals to get a taste of Italy without traveling far. The name comes from Romani’s father. It was a nickname of his when he was younger.

Stacco House by Mammamia is located at 834 West Main Street in Carmel. For more information, call 317-740-0113 or visit staccohouse.com.

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