Mirko D’alessio

Owner and Head Chef at Mama Mia’s, Mirko D’alessio. PHOTO:WAYNE BOWMAN.

Mamma Mia is serving a slice of Italy to go.

Like all restaurants in Trinidad and Tobago, the popular Italian pizzeria has been restricted by the national ban on in-dining due to the ongoing pandemic. But Italian chef and owner Mirko D’alessio says their new family meal offerings and classy packaging make it easy to recreate an authentic experience at home.

“We have tried to keep our full menu. We have put together something that people can order and take away.

“We have a family meal, better packaging for takeaway and we have tried to arrange our own delivery along with foodrop and other delivery apps.

“We are doing anything we can do to help people get a good experience,” D’alessio said when he welcomed the Express to his Grand Bazaar location on Wednesday.

Mamma Mia will also be a part of Trinidad and Tobago Restaurant Week (TTRW) 2020, D’alessio said.

The eighth edition of the popular annual culinary event will be staged utilising curbside pick-up and home delivery from September 25 to October 4.

Chef D’alessio said all safety protocols are in place at both their Grand Bazaar and Shops of Arima locations to ensure the safety of customers.

“We have already invested in all safety protocols. There is a sink outside at the door, sanitising inside, taking your temperature and your name so we can have all tracking for our customers. When someone leaves we have staff spending five to ten minutes to sanitise the space for the next customer,” he said.

Finding solutions

to live with Covid

Despite doing everything humanly possible to operate within the current regulations, however, they have suffered an unsustainable drop in sales. Staff have had to be placed on cycles and some have had to be asked to temporarily remain at home, he said.

D’alessio, who moved to T&T in 2003, said while he understands the precautions a time must come when T&T attempts to live with the virus.

“It’s been tough for the lockdown. We understand because we have to know our enemy: the virus.

“Now that we know a little more and we can see from the European countries who are exploring before us to see what they are doing, what is working and to apply to us.

“Now we have to try to live together with the virus and not just be scared. We have to have common sense, wash hands, wear masks, follow these small protocols that have been working in those countries,” he said.

It’s a balance his home country Italy has had to find following the devastating effects of the virus in the north of the country that saw a national death toll of over 35,000.

D’alessio, whose family are from central Italy and were spared the full force of the pandemic, called on the Government to relook their dine-in policy to help curtail the massive job losses currently occurring in the restaurant sector.

“If maxi-taxi can achieve 50 per cent then restaurants can maybe do the same way. Have your own booth by yourself; 50 per cent is better than nothing, as a restaurant dine-in is your main business.

“We can’t keep going like this till the vaccine come. If a restaurant is over 50 per cent give them a fine or close them down for a week to make sure they don’t cross the line and keep safety for everyone,” he suggested.

The toughest part of the losses in income has been his inability to keep his promise to his staff, he said.

“When I hired them I tell them we have to grow together and we grow since we open. Now some of them I have to leave them home some have short days.

“When I open my business my first concern is my employees because this is my engine. I know I’m selling different stuff, but really my engine is my staff. It’s hard for me to take care of my staff and they have to take care of their family and everybody is anxious,” he explained.

Still, Chef D’alessio believes there is a solution to be found if all stakeholders work together.

“Any society is a circle. Not just because a business that is not mine shut down I will say for me it don’t matter. Yes, it does matter because sooner or later it will affect me.

“If a company shuts down that is a family without a salary, that will affect the economy because then they do not spend. It affects supermarkets, restaurants, clothing anything.

“I try always to be positive since I’m here in 2003. I’m sure there is always a solution to everything. Communication is important. The more we talking the more we find a solution, maybe someone come with a solution. But we have to talk, we can’t just make decision and say that’s it,” he concluded.

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