Frank Tuttolomondo, the pizza master at Mama's Too in Manhattan Valley, is not one to rest on his considerable laurels. Ever since he opened this spinoff to his family's pizza restaurant a little more than two years ago, Tuttolomondo has dreamed of selling sandwiches as well as slices out of the cramped, always crowded spot. But he wanted to get it right, meaning not only did the actual sandwiches have to be the perfect, but even more challenging, he had to figure out the logistics of adding a menu item to the already-difficult demands put upon his tiny kitchen.
And so, after a ridiculous amount of tinkering—when I asked Tuttolomondo how long he's been working on the bread, he said, "I've never not been working the bread"—Tuttolomondo is taking the plunge, starting with the best Meatball Parm you'll ever eat, available this Wednesday at noon until he sells out.
The Mama's Too sandwich program is going to be a slow rollout, as Tuttolomondo calculates the public's demand. Which, given the gleeful reaction of passersby last week when we were photographing these beasts out on Broadway—"Oh my god, you're selling sandwiches now, Frank?!?!"—seems likely to be high. But for now it's this Wednesday (1/13), $9 each, dine-in only, with much more to come. You'll want to follow Mama's Too on Instagram for further updates.
Why is this Meatball Parm so delicious? Tuttolomondo is using a proprietary beef blend from the Romeo Brothers out of Bensonhurst for the balls, and from the ample samples he bestowed upon us I can say that he totally nailed the mix. They're pan-fried of course, for a nice crisp exterior, and Tuttolomondo deploys the correct bread-crumb-to-meat ratio that ensures structural integrity without sacrificing juiciness.
The foundation of the sauce is a confit, using San Marzano-style tomatoes, with rosemary and carrot added as it slowly bakes down. The cheese is a chewy, slightly-charred mozzarella. And the bread! This is where Tuttolomondo the baker really shines, with a focaccia that's a version of his legendary pizza crust (among other things, it has a slightly higher hydration rate), the dough seasoned with garlic olive oil, parmesan, pecorino, and mozzarella before being placed in the hearth oven. Then it's sliced lengthwise, dozens of pockets providing the sauce with a place to go while also giving the thing a certain lightness. And there you have it, a Meatball Parm for the ages.
The Meatball Parm is just the beginning of Mama's Too sandwich era, with plans for a Roast Pork with Rabe, a Chicken Parm with the meat pounded out thin, and a Jamon Iberico (or similar) with cheese and roasted peppers. Other things are the works as well up here, including a possible expansion. Stay tuned.
Mama's Too is located at 2750 Broadway, between 105th and 106th Streets. The Meatball Parm sandwich debuts on Wednesday at noon. Follow @mamastoo for sandwich updates, of which there will be many.