Now dear readers, I imagine there are many among you who have cranked the handle on a pasta maker, or perhaps taken a cooking class to churn out some type of fancy noodle, but Rita, otherwise known as “Mamma Rosa” is quietly creating classic northern Italian pasta dishes in her quaint commercial kitchen.
With the television turned to a cooking channel, Rita periodically will gently call out to the host, that “I knew how to do that years ago”, or, “I was cooking that on a wood stove when I just a girl”. I was honoured that Rita shared her stories with me; how in 1942 she really did learn to cook on a wood burning stove in the Friuli region of northern Italy, where her family farmed. “We would wait for the chicken to make the egg to make the pasta”, she said, explaining further that “what the land gave us was plenty, and we were lucky”. Rita and her family immigrated to Canada in 1953 and now many years and many stoves later, she still creates the pasta her family and yours can enjoy, or as they say “Mamma took the time so you don’t have to”.
For twenty years Rita cooked for the family restaurant “Luigi’s Pizza“, on highway 11 south of Gravenhurst, in Muskoka. When she retired, Rita kept cooking vast amounts, and her family realized they simply couldn’t keep eating like that. Rita was content to cook, it kept her from becoming bored, her family thought perhaps she could share her talents with others, and the decision was made to open a low key hobby business for her. The commercial kitchen was built in the basement of her home, and “Mamma Rosa’s Food began.
Small batch, labour intensive, traditional recipes are used to create the exquisite lasagnas, both meat and vegetable, spinach ricotta cannelloni, hearty shepherds pie and meat pies, meatballs with sauce, hot pepper jelly and jars of wonderful homemade tomato sauce are also available.
This is a multi-generation family owned and operated business. All food is locally made from scratch in the traditional manner. No motorized pasta machine for Mamma Rosa, she turns the handle, feeds the dough through the machine as it becomes thin to translucency. I found it quite fascinating to watch. Rita and her son Dave had generously agreed to create a batch of pasta specifically for me to take photos of, and all the while a large pot of sauce simmered, the tempting scents wafted about the room. This is really good pasta; a tasting last summer held at the Rosseu General Store had a customer declare it to be “the perfect blend of simple ingredients”.
For our Sunday dinner I baked a cannelloni and a meat lasagna. Do follow the instructions; the pasta needs to be cooked until the sauce well is absorbed. I invited a friend to join darling daughter and I for dinner; I made a side salad, warmed some fresh crusty Italian bread and we proclaimed it a feast. Five layers of pasta, each with heaps of mozzarella, a blend of meats, plenty of that tasty sauce; the combination of mild, delicate flavours, just beautiful!
Rita, a sincere thank you for allowing me to come into your home to witness your humble and extraordinary talent in the kitchen. If you plan on baking cannoli or crostoli, I welcome an invite back! When you decide to hang up your apron, your son David and his wife Loree will pick up your spoons and ladles to carry on with your unwritten recipes, assuring that this legacy of love is available for generations to come.
Until then I believe you said it best when you told me; “I like to eat and to show somebody else that what you make is good and guaranteed good to eat”.
Mamma Rosa’s Foods are served at Barrie Country Club functions and are available to purchase and enjoy in your own home from numerous locales in Simcoe County and beyond.
Mamma Rosa’s Food
Mamma Rosa’s Foods are available at:
Café Fromagerie 181 Livingstone St E #22, Barrie, ON L4M 6Z4 (705) 719-2400
Back in Thyme 14 Coldwater Rd, Coldwater, ON L0K 1E0 (705) 686-3493
Sintons Esso in Craighurst 705-737-9302
Country Produce 301 Westmount Dr N, Orillia, ON L3V 6Y4 (705) 325-9902
Rosseau General Store 1 Rice St, Rosseau, ON P0C 1J0 (705) 732-4479
Written by: Penelope Morrow
Penelope Morrow is a writer, editor and food aficionado from Barrie, follow her tweets @penelopejmorrow