Word around the downtown lunch scene is that anyone wanting a table at Mozzarella Fella better get there ahead of the rush. You see, “the” Mozzarella Fella is Italian American, raised in Brooklyn, and grew up enjoying Sunday dinner at his Grandma Calore’s house. It was from this, New York’s most populous borough, that the Fella earned his chops in the restaurant business, as well as Staten Island and Lower Manhattan. And “the” Mozzarella Fella is known for making great sandwiches.
We found it’s easiest to grab a table if we arrive before noon or drop by on a Monday or Tuesday. Friday? Fugetaboutit! Be prepared to take your lunch to go — which is what a great number of guests choose to do anyway.
But Mart and I really like the quirky interior at Mozzarella Fella, and enjoy the cast of characters that come and go during their lunch hour. I also enjoy reading all the custom designed word art stenciled on wooden planks throughout the store. My favorite? “Leave the gun, take the cannolies”. Think the sign is designed to discourage any “wise guys” from dropping in? I doubt it. . . They gotta eat too!
The first visit to Mozzarella Fella was made with our manager from the downtown office of Coldwell Banker, Pauline. It was a Friday, and fortunately we got there early enough to snap up a table. All of us went for the calamari special — Pauline and Mart taking on the sandwich, with my choice being the calamari topped green salad.
Mozzarella Fella lives up to its name. The “mozz” is homemade every day, and absolutely delicious. Fortunately, almost all of the menu items feature their delicioso fresh mozzarella, so you’ll most likely get a chance to taste it when you stop by. Me? I ordered a side of mozzarella just so I could taste it without any sauce or condiments, and quickly decided the next time Mart and I are cooking up a little sumpin-sumpim at home, if recipe calls for fresh mozzarella, there’s only one logical place to get it. The Fella’s!
So Pauline and Mart are happily noshing away on their Fried Calamari sandwiches, and Pauline notices some word art I could go for. It was a simple plaque that read 25-8-366. No doubt’s it’s the owner’s schedule — working 25 hours a day, 8 days a week, and 366 days of the year. . . or at least it must feel that way at the end of a shift, what with the crowds they cater to. Good for them!
Both the Fried Calamari Sandwich and the salad featured ample portions of fresh, crispy calamari that obviously came from a fryer with brand new oil. The coating was so light and crunchy, allowing the taste and chewiness of the calamari to shine though. The sandwich was seasoned with red onion, lemon and mayo, while the salad was dressed with a light balsamic vinaigrette. Both were big hits, but we can’t blog on just calamari! Right?!
So a week or so later, Mart and I are back on a Monday, when the joint is a little quieter. This go-round I’m focused on having a sandwich, so the hot Chicken Parmigiana with fresh mozzarella (go figure) was my choice. I’d seen little kids polish off their sandwiches at Mozzarella Fella, but for me — this was two meals. I happily enjoyed one half of my Chicken Parmigiana, and wrapped the remaining portion up for another meal. And why wouldn’t I? There was so much hot, stringy mozzarella on this sandwich, that I made an absolute mess while eating, much to the delight of some kids sitting at a neighboring table. I didn’t let it bother me, because I wasn’t the only one taking a bite, pulling the sandwich away from my mouth, with a long, stretchy strands of mozzarella still attached. Classic!
Next up was the Fried Eggplant sandwich, Mart’s choice on our second visit. Featuring Boar’s Head Ham, fried eggplant, fresh mozzarella, roasted pepper, olive oil and a balsamic glaze, this sandwich is packed with flavor. Looking back on it, I realize that I haven’t mentioned the bread. This hoagie roll has got to be fresh from the bakery — and a Brooklyn style bakery at that. When you serve a sandwich with this much ‘umph’ you need a bread that can hold up to it, without being so thick that it overpowers the fresh ingredients. Mozzarella Fella has this one in the bag, so to speak. The crust is baked just long enough to make for a good chew, while the inside is light and airy enough to soak up some of the flavor. Mangia Mangia!
Think only the downtown business crowd has made Mozzarella Fella a hit? Oh Noooooo! On our first visit I spotted Joe Panek, local celebrity/actor and star of Saratopia – a YouTube series that takes a irreverent spin on all things Sarasota. Joey is in line at the counter with actress/improv artist Christine Alexander, who is equally brilliant, irreverent and funny in the Lazy Fairy Improv troupe. I decide to sneak a quick photo. . . No one will notice, right?
Busted! Fortunately Joey and Christine are tickled to be the victims of my weak attempt at playing paparazzi, and they stop by our table to say hello. Wouldn’t you know it? They’re fans of SarasotaFoodies too!
One of my favorite episodes of Saratopia is entitled “Joey’s Birthday Dinner”, which tells a humorous story on how quickly new restaurants open in town. I’ve added the link here so you can enjoy it too! Make sure you watch it to the very end. The outtakes with Christine are almost the best part!
Next time you’re in the mood for something deliciously Italian, why not give Mozzarella Fella a try? After all, the restaurant review sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor rate them a 5 out of 5! And with those high a rating, why mess with perfection!
I could get hooked on Mozzarella Fella! In fact, I think I WILL take the cannolies. . .