Once upon a time, there was a middle-class area in Rome in the 70s, one of those areas with tree-lined roads, early-1900s buildings, workshops and delicatessens. I used to live there, on the fourth floor of an enormous building between the farmer’s market and the best bakery shop in the area. MAMI’s story was born there, on the fourth floor landing of a building full of memories and poetry. There were three families: Pierina’s, nonna Coscia’s and mine.
Nonna Coscia was always with us, the doors of our homes were never closed, we chatted, laughed, confided to one another, advised one another. When it came to cooking, we shared everything, from the onions for the tomato sauce and the quadrucci pasta for the soup, to the yeast and flour for the home made bread, as if we were one big family.
Pierina’s house, instead, was always locked, the big walnut door almost never opened, only at around 8pm on Saturdays. Nonna Coscia always said that Pierina was a lonely soul, that she didn’t like company. She only liked her favourite films, which she watched over and over again at a considerably loud volume. Actually, Pina was alone, and maybe those films gave her a bit of comfort. She liked those old black and white movies, like some of Chaplin’s movies, but she had an absolute fascination for Clark Gable, and she loved him when he was playing Rhett Butler, the grumpy yet fascinating protagonist of the greatest and most tiresome film of all time: Gone with the Wind. Every Saturday afternoon, at around 4pm, she would switch her small kitchen tv on, she would insert her worn out VHS tape in and started to prepare her signature dishes: pizza capricciosa and supplì al telefono. I couldn’t see her, but from the small courtyard of the building, into which our kitchens were facing, the cries of Scarlett O’Hara were profusely heard, the ringing of the secession war trumpet and the happy and kind voice of Mami, accompanied by the smell of sautèed onions, fresh basil and tomatoes, that would make my stomach grumble and my mouth drool. Punctually, at 8pm, everything was ready. So Pierina, with her big and red face, would open and stand on her apartment door and tweet with her high pitched voice: they’re ready! Mami made them with her own hands! And you would finally see them: the mighty supplì. Those proud rice balls oozing with tomato rice and mozzarella, succulent and piping hot, and those nice well seasoned and crunchy pizza squares that she would give us every Saturday evening, as a standing date. Pierina was solitaire, but the memory of how good that food was, makes me think that she loved us as if we were her sons, that’s why those supplì and that pizza was always a gift for us! From here, MAMI, a fried food shop and pizzeria, has all the poetry and memories of a happy childhood into its name and its products.