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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Pizza Magic at Mama Della's

Mama Della’s New York City Pizzeria is the new place to get a slice in town. True New York style pizza is not easy to come by in Baton Rouge, and best I can tell, Mama Della's does it right. “I’m into what’s going on in your mouth,” owner and chef Barry Kalt told me as he joined my table for a brief moment in between pizza orders. Born and raised in New York City, Kalt knows what it takes to make the authentic New York style pies that are coveted across the country. He started in the restaurant business 46 years ago and has worked in various venues including restaurants, casinos, and even submarines. All of this experience has left him with the knowledge and talent to run a successful restaurant while sticking to his roots. All of the pizzas at Mama Della’s are handmade and the recipes come from different members of Kalt’s family. Even the logo is a picture of his mother, Adelle. While the chef is happy to discuss his life and experiences, he’d rather talk about his pizzas and the steps that go into making them. Because after all, “it’s all about the food.”

While at Mama Della’s I tried two of the favorite items on the menu. I'll get to the pizza in a bit. Besides serving NY pies, Kalt also fixes up Italian-style hero sandwiches. I opted for the chicken parm. Mama Della’s does a pretty good job on this simple sandwich. A fried chicken cutlet is served on soft Italian bread with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. What makes the sandwich so special is Chef Leonardo’s marinara sauce, which is named after Kalt’s father. If pizza isn’t for you, you’re sure to find something on the menu that is true to New York style.



The star of my meal was one of Chef’s favorites, a classic margharita pizza. The simple pie only contains four elements: crust, tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. Complexity isn't needed here. It’s the quality of the ingredients that make this Mama Della specialty so good. Kalt hand tosses the dough for all of the pizzas and this extra step is evident in the food that he serves. The crust doesn’t overshadow the rest of the pizza, which is the way a classic New York style pie should be served. It’s thin enough to have a crunch but thick enough to hold the few ingredients and complement the flavors. But that's where the margharita pizza ends its common ties. There’s no sauce on Chef Kalt’s signature creation. The tomatoes, which come from an area in Italy near Pompeii, have a sweetness and tang which pair excellently with the mozzarella. They alone make up the tomato portion of the pizza. And they are a topping unto themselves. Throw on a little basil, and you have a fairly authentic pizza! Chef Kalt doesn’t cut any corners when it comes making his pizzas. “If I can’t get the ingredients I want, I don’t serve that pizza. It’s as simple as that. I’m not going to compromise the quality of my pizza in order to make more money,” said Kalt.

While there are no exceptions when it comes to the ingredients of his pizzas, Chef Kalt is willing to make changes for a customer. “I go the extra mile to make sure folks are taken care of,” he told me. Just please don't ask him to add pepperoni and Italian sausage to a margharita pizza. I'm sure he'd do it, but the man might die a little inside.

When you walk into Mama Della’s it may not seem like anything too special. It’s a standard in and out restaurant with bar stools and red checkered table cloths. Chef Kalt serves his pizza on paper plates with plastic utensils for those who may need them for some bizarre reason. In New York City they don’t eat their pizza with forks so he doesn’t serve it that way here either. His attention to quality and authenticity are attributes that give a restaurant staying power. Let's hope this one lasts.

If you’re looking for classic New York style pizza, the only thing Mama Della’s is missing is the Statue of Liberty in the background. Alright, so it may not have quite been Lombardi's pie coming out of a coal oven in Manhattan, but I can definitely add it to my list of go-to pizza restaurants in Baton Rouge. Next time you’re in the mood for a slice, avoid a chain and try a new, local pizzeria. I don't think you'll regret it.

Mama Della's N. Y. City Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

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