WATCH NOW: After five months of renovations, Mamma Mia restaurant reopens with a new look | Local business news
Carolyn R. Wilson | For Washington County News
ABINGDON, Va. — A popular Italian restaurant in Abingdon has reopened after a five-month renovation project.
Italian restaurant Mamma Mia, located near the city’s historic train depot, opened last week to rave reviews from customers on social media.
“I’m so excited it’s done,” said owner and chef Baset Aybb. “Everyone likes it.”
David McLeish of Meadowview waits for the restaurant to reopen. “The food is just as spectacular as the renovations. I look forward to trying some of the dishes in the near future,” he said.
“We love Mamma Mia,” said Cindy Fields, director of the Virginia Highlands Small Business Development Center. “The food is delicious, but most of all, I love supporting small businesses that have such kind owners who are focused on great customer service.”
Aybb said the newly designed space lends a cozy, warm feel, showcasing new color palettes, gas fireplaces, furniture, and wall art.
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“My goal is to put my clients at ease. Going to a restaurant should not just be a visit to eat. It’s an adventure from the moment you walk in.
Several drawbacks in the nearly century-old building prompted Aybb to begin creating a new design for the restaurant about a year ago.
One of the best changes, he said, is a new waiting area for customers. An outdoor area between the restaurant and adjacent buildings has been fenced off to create a spacious new entrance which can also be used by customers waiting for an order or for seating.
The new entrance eliminates an exterior door that opened directly into the main dining room, which sometimes bothered customers with drafts and street noise.
The enclosed space also provided for three additional cabins and a table, increasing the number of seats in the dining area.
Aybb said he also wanted to give the dining room an innovative new look.
“I firmly believe in shaking things up from time to time. You have to change the look of your customers so they don’t get tired of the same scene,” he said.
The new dining room features speakers suspended from the ceiling, projecting music into small seating areas. Customers who prefer to dine quietly can request that the speakers near their tables be turned off.
The culinary experience is an educational adventure, he said.
Dining tables are finished to reveal many famous inspirational quotes from Malcolm X to Martin Luther King Jr.
One of his favorite table quotes is “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
“If you put inspirational quotes in front of people to read, especially young children, they will always remember them,” Aybb said.
The walls of the restaurant are decorated with colorful posters that highlight the components of a pizza, such as olive oil, flour and tomatoes. The owner said the posters are meant to be informative and entertaining for customers and their families while they wait for their orders.
The building work has been a blessing in disguise for Aybb, who said he has only had four days off since opening the Abingdon restaurant four years ago.
During the renovation phases, Aybb and his family took the opportunity to travel to his native Dijon, France, to visit his elderly parents, whom he had not seen since the opening of the building. business in 2017.
While in France, Aybb enrolled in classes at a school associated with his family’s pizzeria to further his education in making authentic Italian pizza.
The business owner said he is ready to start a new adventure in town, offering the same quality of Italian dishes that people in the city have come to expect.
He described his menu as simple without a lot of prep time.
Many of her authentic recipes come from Aybb’s sister, Moungia, and brother-in-law, Luigi, who run an Italian cooking school in France.
Customer favorites include three special recipes named for her family members. Luigi Ravioli and Luigi Manicotti are both prepared with fresh homemade pasta stuffed with fresh spinach, ricotta and mozzarella.
Moungia Aubergine Parmigiana is a classic meatless recipe. “Without a doubt, it’s our bestseller,” Aybb said.
Other starters are baked spaghetti with meat sauce; fresh homemade lasagna; fettuccine Alfredo cooked with cream sauce, parmesan, grilled chicken and broccoli; and Parmigiana meatball. Aybb also serves stromboli, calzones and pizza.
Mamma Mia Italian Restaurant, located at 134 Wall St. in Abingdon, is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Discover the Italian restaurant Mamma Mia on Facebook.
Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at [email protected]