Anyone familiar with the town of Pawling over the last 20 years will be quick to identify Mama Pizza II as one of the community’s most successful and cherished businesses. Ever since its foundation, Mama’s has provided for this town in a way that is utterly unique, both as an eatery and a source of local activity.
Originally opened by Mike Notaro in 1995, the pizzeria was established on the heels of Mama Pizza in Patterson, owned by Mike’s parents, Angelo and Josephine.
“It was a lifelong dream to open up a place of my own,” says Mike, who was 27 when he launched the enterprise.
This was after a lifetime of watching his parents in action. Both had made the trip to America from their native Italy at the age of 16. Angelo originally worked as a “bread guy” in White Plains, before opening up his first restaurant – Pizza Italia – in Riverdale, NY. Today, Mike claims to be “married to his business,” which he co-owns with both his parents.
The pizzeria employs about six part-time and full-time workers, all under Mike’s supervision. In addition to his signature pizzas, Mama’s offers a diverse menu, ranging from their Eggplant Rollatini and Chicken Scapariello to Josephine’s homemade cheesecake (molto buono) and a new line-up of hamburgers, with names like the Mi-Mi, the Che-Che, and the Zaboo – all after Mike’s kids.
The family-oriented atmosphere of Mama’s proprietors may account for why it has become such a popular destination among local families. It is not uncommon to enter Mama’s and find yourself in the company of several Little League kids and their parents, grabbing a slice before practice, or a soccer team relishing a few pies after a big match. The walls are adorned with artwork by kids from Pawling Elementary – a sign of their appreciation for Mama’s welcoming vibe.
“I love this town and how close-knit everyone is,” says Mike, who grew up in Mahopac, and so claims to have been “impressed” by the small scale and intimacy of Pawling.
But the communal ties Mama’s shares with Pawling are not limited to business. In Mike’s own words, “I’m always trying to do something for the community.” Fifteen years ago, Mama’s started offering tours of their kitchen to children from the Sunshine Preschool, as well as to handicapped children, and children out of the Hudson Valley Cerebral Palsy Group. Mike frequently hosts “pizza parties” for local school kids, inviting classes to the restaurant where he teaches the students to make their own pies. He also regularly employs local high school- and college-aged kids in part-time positions at the restaurant, where he tries to impart a good work ethic.
“I’m just so thankful to everyone for helping us grow,” says Mike, at this point an expert restaurateur, and a well-known face among so many of us who call Pawling home. His need to thank us, however, looks modest beside our collective need to thank him and his business, for all it has done for us. In its 18 years of existence, Mama’s has managed to bring this community together and shape our perception of Pawling in a way that few of our other local businesses have ever managed.
For that, the Notaros deserve not only our thanks, but our never-ending support – as if the tastiness of their pizza wasn’t enough.
Mama Pizza II is open seven days a week, 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM, at 46 Charles Colman Boulevard in Pawling.