This new downtown Des Moines pizza joint is putting Steak de Burgo on a pie
This 13-month-old little girl already knows what's important in life: pizza. USA TODAY
Mama Mia! There's a new pizzeria in town, Des Moines — and it's only steps away from Principal Park.
Mama Mia's at 550 S.W. 9th Street opened on April 30, serving up dine-in or carryout fast-casual New York-style slices, sandwiches and stromboli for lunch and thin crust pizzas family-style with table service for dinner. Limited delivery is available for orders of $50 or more.
Owned by couple Anthony Bordenaro, 49, and Elisa Bryant, 37, Mama Mia's pizza restaurant — not to be confused with the song and show of ABBA fame — opened in the new Cityville on 9th apartment community, taking over the former space of Chicago Dog.
"It's in my blood," Bordenaro said. "I've been making pizzas since I was 7 years old. We saw this spot and I thought that would be a great spot for a pizza place."
Bordenaro bakes the pies using homemade dough with help of son and fellow chef, Dax Bordenaro, 19, while Bryant runs the dining room.
Anthony Bordenaro grew up in Indiana and moved back to Des Moines three years ago to follow in his father's footsteps. Bordenaro has been baking hot, fresh pies since his parents, Trudy and Robert, Sr., opened the original Mamma Mia's in 1973 in Evansville, Indiana. The new name lost an 'M' in the transition.
Bordenaro also owned Uncle Gio's Pizzeria and Restaurant in Nashville, Tennessee, with two locations.
Bryant, a Des Moines native, joined Bordenaro in the quest to carry on the family tradition after being laid off after 12 years of working as an account manager.
With hand-built booths, high-top tables and patio seating, Mama Mia's can accommodate 68 people. Chalkboard tables at the booths function to keep kids occupied as the pies bake for 25 minutes in stone ovens. "It's really fun to read the notes customers leave for us," Bryant said.
Bordenaro did much of the restaurant's construction work himself, also owning United Exteriors Group, Inc., a home improvement company.
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As for the food, that same hands-on tradition continues: "The only thing that's not made here is the cheese," said Bryant. But that cheese is still freshly shredded in-house. Mama Mia's uses only hormone-free Grande Cheese Company cheeses for all of its pies. And Mama's also makes its own spicy Italian sausage for its pizzas and sandwich.
The most popular appetizer is the Mama's Stuffed Meatballs: four handmade meatballs stuffed with mozzarella, breaded and deep-fried, served with a house-made red sauce for dipping.
A full line of specialty and build-your-own pizzas is available on Mama's secret recipe thin crust. Mama's Masterpiece is a blend of house-made sausage, pepperoni, capicola, fresh ground beef, mushrooms, red onions, green peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, black and green olives pepperoncinis, red sauce and mozzarella cheese.
Bryant said a surprising seller has been the lighter Prosciutto-Arugula pizza made with a lighter portion of red sauce, prosciutto, grated Parmesan and peppery arugula with a balsamic and olive oil swirl.
Mama Mia's even has a Steak de Burgo pizza, with a white crust brushed with de Burgo oil, topped with mozzarella cheese, mushrooms, roasted garlic cloves and tender steak.
A 10-inch gluten-free crust is available, and there are vegetarian and vegan options on the menu as well.
There are plenty of other items on the menu other than pizza, like penne pasta dishes with red sauce and Italian sausage or meatballs (which can be served in a bread bowl) and the Mama's Mega Monster Meatball Sub: 16 inches of meaty, cheesy goodness including six of Mama's signature meatballs, a full pound of mozzarella and the option to add hot or banana peppers.
Bringing in a touch of Indiana, Bordenaro insisted that all sandwiches be served with Grippo's Potato Chips. "Nobody has them here except for us," Bordenaro said.
Wine and beer (craft, domestic and imported) are served here along with Pepsi products. Guests can bring their own bottles to have opened at the restaurant with a minimal corkage fee.
And be sure to save room for cannoli, filled with a sweet, house-made ricotta blend with mini chocolate chips. A flourless chocolate cake is also available, easily shareable and garnished with fresh raspberries.
Location: 550 S.W. 9th St., Ste. 4108, Des Moines
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 4 to 10 p.m.; closed Sundays.