When the Big Mamma restaurant chain in France went to open their new restaurant Mamma Primi Ristorante in Paris, they needed someone who could open a kitchen and run it flawlessly. They also knew the chef for the job, who worked at another one of their restaurants, Ober Mamma, and helped build it to an extremely successful weekend spot. That was Vincenzo Pezzella.
Mamma Primi Ristorante is a quaint pizzeria in the outskirts of Paris. They serve traditional Italian recipes and pizza, but change the menu once a month based on their primary products. Upon opening, the chain specifically asked Pezzella to run the kitchen, knowing he would make it a success. He has been the chef since the restaurant opened in April, creating new recipes to ensure freshness and quality that need to be met as part of the chain's request. He also maintains the expediting of all dishes that go out of the kitchen and pizzeria on a daily basis.
“I like it. It’s a great young atmosphere. It’s fast paced, exciting, youthful and open to the thing I want to do and create as a chef de cuisine,” he said. “The monthly menu change is what really excites me about it. A new change every month allows me to come up with all new dishes and all new creativity to the day to day operation.”
Pezzella grew up in Naples, Italy, and is a recognized Italian chef that brings his own twist to classic dishes. He not only can cook, but run a kitchen and build a team. Working of changing products do not bother him, nor does he find it difficult, and anything he needs he can get from Italy. They try to in-source everything from French providers who work with Italian companies. Part of what makes his job so enjoyable is bringing the food he grew up with to a new country.
“Paris is a great city for my passion and an incredibility creative kitchen city. The French cuisine is the most classic in all its ways leading into my passion for a newer Italian style allowing me to really become one with all of it,” said Pezzella. “Customers feel at home, in an Italian ambiance, with fresh products that taste and feel like they are coming from Italy.”
Running his own kitchen from the beginning is a sense of pride for Pezzella. The restaurant employs a lot of youth in the area, as it is its primary customer base. Working with youth can lead to a large turnover ratio, but his team is faithful to him, with half of them transitioning from Ober Mamma to Mamma Primi.
“This is a restaurant that values its growth on the youth of the area both as its working base and its customer base. That makes the atmosphere of the restaurant very youthful and very happy. It’s loud, the people like to come in and eat fast, drink lots of wine, and continue on with their evening festivities. Not a very late night crowd kind of place. That way I can get some sleep,” he joked.
While building a team, Pezzella also becomes a mentor for those aspiring chefs he works with. Virginia Baldeschi started out with him at Ober Prima, and has now gone back to Ober to be the head chef.
“I feel particularly proud of that feat since she has come up the ranks on our start-up team. We worked together to move her up the ladder and it’s especially gratifying to see her do so well in her new position,” he said.
Baldeschi’s success did not come without the help of Pezzella, who guided her on her path.
"Chef Vincenzo showed me what cooking like a Neapolitan truly is,” she said. “Simple ingredients and freshness is what matters."
With a quick but determined rise to where he is, no one can deny Pezzella has strong cooking abilities, but also a great sense of leadership. Working at Mamma Primi is just an example of what the chef can do.
“This restaurant and experience has taught me so much about my industry. It continues to drive me in the highest sense. I am very proud of my time here,” he concluded.