Anna Maria Mollo has taught her children many lessons, but one in particular stands out to her son, Frank, who manages and often cooks at the trattoria. “People come first, always. You cannot put money first. We have one door, customers have 50,000 doors to go to. When you come in, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, what you do for a living or who you are. To us, you choosing our place is so important to us that we really appreciate you. I make sure to introduce myself to every person that comes here and they become our friends.”
It’s a warm summer Saturday afternoon. The phone is ringing off the hook and eager patrons are knocking at the door trying to get their lunch fix. Frank is attempting to keep his train of thought with all the natural interjections. “We have had to turn down many people,” he digresses after explaining to customers that he regrettably is unable to seat them. “We’re only open on Saturday’s now for dinner and events.” The family-run restaurant is an intimate space designed to hold a maximum of 65 people. With the elevated level of service they provide to each and every table, it’s understandable why Frank would consider opening for the Saturday lunch crowd to be ‘too much’. “Saturday is our busiest night, so we want to make sure that everything is perfect. Being open during the day, sure you make more money, but I don’t care. Money doesn’t mean anything if you don’t offer a good product and good service.”
Currently boasting an extraordinary TripAdvisor ranking as the #5 restaurant out of 615 throughout Vaughan, the Mollo family pride themselves on two fundamental elements; exceptional service and quality of food. Their cuisine is ‘simple and excellent’; at least that’s the way famous chef and restaurateur, Wolfgang Puck has described their dishes after dining at the trattoria. “People come here and they feel at home, or like at nonna’s house,” explains Anna Maria. With cuisine that derives from Sartano, a small town on the outskirts of Cosenza in Italy, Anna Maria’s mother has taught her just about everything she knows in the kitchen. “Everything is prepared from scratch, just like how my mom used to cook. That’s what I am trying to introduce here,” says Anna.
A style known as ‘Casarecce’, translating to ‘homemade’, is definitely evident with every mouthful of food. From homemade pizza dough that is cooked to perfection in a stone oven to gnocchi that is hand rolled every morning and topped with a delicious sauce of your choosing, there is no dish you can order on or off their menu that won’t make your taste buds tingle. “You prefer something that’s not on the menu,” Frank says, “We’ll do it. We will work around the customer. People call in advance and ask if we can make Osso Buco, Baccala or Eggplant Parmigiana and we make it for them. ‘La nostra casa è la tua casa’,” meaning our house is your house. Using only the finest ingredients in all of their dishes, Frank is adamant in making it clear that everything served at Anna Maria Trattoria is fresh. “Take our herbs, for example. We grow our own Basil, Sage and Rosemary,” Frank says. “We flip our produce everyday, we buy our meats and fish fresh, we get our vegetables from a local farm everyday. We use extra virgin olive oil. We want to make sure that everything we buy and cook is of excellent quality.”
At this trattoria, it’s all in the family. ‘Trattoria’, which means ‘family run restaurant’, is exactly what you will experience; the authentic Italian cuisine, the welcoming atmosphere and arguably most importantly, the genuine kind-hearted people. The innate passion for food is visibly inherited from one generation to the next, “I learned how to cook from my mom, Frank had a passion for food since he was a little kid, the whole family has this passion for cooking,” explains Anna Maria. She can be found cooking up a delicious storm, with Frank either at her side, or catching up with regular customers. His sister Tanya gives her undivided attention to the seated tables while Frank’s wife, Danielle is responsible for booking special events. Anna Maria’s husband, Lucio sings while his friends play the guitar and keyboard every Saturday evening. Her sister and brother-in-law get involved, preparing the Tiramisu and pitching in wherever else they can to prepare the restaurant. Even Frank’s brother, John, who lives in Calgary pitches in behind the scenes as the graphic designer. Anna Maria mentions how fortunate she feels to have such a dedicated family and all of the other incredibly hard-working staff, referring to them also ‘like family’. “My husband was very ill at one time, so I had to work a lot,” explains Anna Maria. After working seven days a week, 14 hours a day for nearly nine years as a waitress at another restaurant to pay for her husband, Lucio’s medical care, it was finally her time to shine. “My father was in the hospital for a long time,” Frank recalls. “He almost died. He said to me, ‘When I get a kidney, we are going to open up a business and be successful.'” Anna Maria interjects, “When he got back on his feet, he looked at me and said ‘you deserve better than this.’ Then he found this restaurant and Lucio fell in love with the ambiance. I didn’t want something big; I wanted something homey.” “We went through a lot,” Frank continues, “it was very hard, but within three months we were busy. My dad said to me, ‘Trust me, when people hear about our food, they will come.’ He was right.” Anna Maria finishes, “My husband and I love food. My family got involved because they knew how dedicated I was to this place and how much I wanted this to work.”
It has been quite the journey for the Mollo family. From owning both a successful restaurant and banquet hall in Calgary for 20 years then having to sell both businesses for Lucio to get better followed by nine years of hard work to support the family to now. After four successful years at this location on Langstaff Road just east of Jane Street, I question whether they would consider opening a larger space to cater to their hungry following. “Maybe, you just never know” says Frank. “But we would rather be more personable.” Sticking to their original plan, Anna Maria Trattoria will continue to offer that same ‘homey feel’ they set out to achieve. You can be sure to receive one-on-one service at each and every visit.
Anna Maria Trattoria is located at 2900 Langstaff Road. To book your reservation or upcoming event, please call 905.532.0004