Mamma Teresa Ristorante
By Mara Munro

From Parma to parliament

Sometimes great things come from humble beginnings, and this is certainly true of Mamma Teresa Ristorante. In 1960, the Boselli family left the hills of Parma in Northern Italy and settled in Canada's capital. The family brought with them their lust for life, great wine, traditional homemade Italian cuisine and the warm hospitality of a traditional family dinner.

In 1970, Giuliano Boselli and his mother, Mamma Teresa, decided to share these passion with their new hometown, so they opened their arms and kitchen doors to the public with a small family business named in honour of the family matriarch: Mamma Teresa Ristorante. 

Located in the heart of downtown Ottawa close to Parliament Hill, Mamma Teresa Ristorante has been the spot for politicians to dine and debate since the 1980s. "There's a lot of history in these walls," says co-owner Frank Schimizzi. "We are known as the unofficial 'Liberal headquarters' and the Trudeau's are regular diners. The constitution was signed here!" he exclaims, pointing to a wall covered in historic photos and autographed head shots.

Walter and I personally know 90 per cent of the people who come in. We know them by their first name, we know what they like to eat and where they like to sit. Our customers are like family to us and that's what we pride ourselves on. - Frank Schimizzi, co-owner
Photo courtesy of Mamma Teresa Ristorante

Locals and legends

The list of memorable customers reaches far beyond politicians; Mamma Teresa Ristorante has hosted Hollywood elite, music superstars and sports legends. "I've served so many people," says Frank. "Reba Macintyre, Kate Moss, Wayne Gretzky. I had goosebumps when I served Gretzky – he's truly a legendary ambassador of the sport and for Canada."

But for Frank and co-owner Walter Moreschi, it's not all about the glamour and glitz. Both Frank and Walter started working at Mamma Teresa Ristorante more than 30 years ago, making their way from washing dishes to waiting tables. In 1984, Giuliano Boselli decided to sell the business but wanted to keep it "in the family," so to speak, and Walter and Frank have been running it ever since.

"We are here not just for the famous people," explains Frank. "We are here for the locals. We have served three generations now. The little girl we served in the high chair – we are now serving her children."

Photo courtesy of Mamma Teresa Ristorante

Mamma Teresa's spaghetti

Mamma Teresa Ristorante is located in a sprawling historic Victorian home. Each room has been converted into a dining room with only a few tables each, so diners really do feel like they're guests in a family home.

The heart and soul of the menu is Mamma Teresa's spaghetti: a meat, mushroom and cream sauce served on a bed of fresh, homemade pasta. Other signature Italian and Mediterranean dishes include the seafood pasta with shrimps and scallops; a crab meat rose sauce with a spicy kick; and scallopini veal and chicken Marbella with linguini vongole, to name a few.

For a light lunch, try their carpaccio or calamari with a side of chef's salad, a classic Italian-style coffee and maybe a tiramisu della casa. "Our goal is to take care of people the moment the walk in, to the moment they leave," says Frank. "Walter and I truly love our work." True to their word, customers can create or modify the dishes to suit their tastes, which is rare for a fine dining experience.

Mamma Teresa Ristorante offers the rare quality of exceptionally homemade food and outstanding hospitality and service within the walls of a warm and comfortable home. This is why it can amicably host locals, international celebrities and the political elite all under the roof, so everyone can enjoy a traditional Italian family experience.

[Header photo courtesy of Mamma Teresa Ristorante]

Photo courtesy of Mamma Teresa Ristorante
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