“Order the Rigatoni Alla Vodka; it is the best I’ve ever tasted,” said Executive Chef Roberto Barth.
Barth spent 20 years building a culinary career cooking at restaurants and private chef gigs across the country, but it was a recent vacation that brought him to our shores. 48 hours into his first visit to 30A, he had an interview. On his third day of enjoying the emerald waters and sugar sand beaches, he sat down with Mimmo. Nine weeks later, he pulled up roots to helm the next chapter of Mimmo’s Italian legacy on the Gulf Coast.
That Italian heritage reaches across generations and miles to Sicily where Mimmo grew up and learned his family’s recipes.
Touches of Old World influence can be seen throughout the restaurant. Impossibly tall stately doors open to black and white tile floors that look like an aged palazzo. Brick with the character of architecture in the back alleys in Sicily runs up the walls. Grand chandeliers hang between open beams providing soft lighting to dine by, and matte black finishes add to the bygone era luxury.
Chef Angelo (who trained in Italy) slides the pizza paddle into an oven custom-built in Italy and emblazoned with Mimmo’s logo on the tile. Hanging from the brick are antique pizza paddles, but it is the other side of the oven that catches my attention. A small window separates the kitchen and pizza-making area. It looks just like one of those ancient wine windows, popularized during the plague so merchants could pass products through to waiting patrons and avoid contact. This one allows quick communication with the kitchen, but it is another homage to Italian heritage.
But it is not just about honoring his past, for Mimmo, it is also about providing a high level of service, fresh ingredients, and offering approachable dining that makes guests feel like they’re home.
Chef Barth elaborated, “Mimmo wants to touch every table, and make every person who walks through the door feel welcome.”
That mission is spelled out on a chalkboard adjacent to the elegant bar stocked with Italian spirits. The chalk greeting telegraphs, “Welcome friends & family.”
The dining room buzzes with conversations. Families, couples, and groups of girlfriends populate the space. Bottles of Acqua Panna still water from Tuscany litter the tables. Local honey can be spotted at the bar, as well as in-house-made syrups for their inventive drinks. All cocktails are vegan, only using egg white substitute. And the enormous barn door abutting the bar reveals a space right of the Medici Gardens in Florence.
The private dining room that is seated, but can be reserved, has a gorgeous celestial ceiling print that makes you feel like you are night sky stargazing amid sculpture busts and ornate dark wood accents.
Mimmo’s 30A opened Monday, November 21st, 2022, just three days after they received their Certificate Of Occupancy, and it’s been gangbusters ever since. Barth added, “I’m so thrilled to be here, doing our best every day to bring a great experience to the community.”
And he was right about that vodka sauce. The bowl piled high with large pasta tubes soaked in a creamy pink sauce is not overly rich, has freshly shaved parmesan atop for nutty notes, and is truly addictive. But Mimmo’s Marsala, a house specialty, is life-changing. Tender chicken is layered with the marsala wine mushroom sauce, all served atop angel hair pasta. Zests of orange scattered over the sauce surprise the palate, lending a pop of brightness to the cream-finished sauce. I could have drank my weight in that sauce—it was that good.
For Barth who started working in restaurants at the age of 16, it’s about the daily puzzle of making everything work. “I’m always in the pursuit of making people happy through food. I love the challenge of consistently delivering the ultimate dining experience while maintaining organization in the kitchen and leading my team.”
On the horizon, there’s a brand new pasta extruder waiting in the kitchen for its first batch of homemade pasta to support all those housemade sauces. For now, there is Pizza Margherita with tangy sauce, fresh basil leaves, and a crust that is craggy and bubbled in all the right places. And don’t leave without some dolce.
Barth’s tiramisu (because not only is he the executive chef, but he’s also the man behind the pastry) is soaked in fresh-brewed espresso, Frangelico, and Borghetti liquor (an Italian specialty). Then he whips the mascarpone filling to light perfection, and dusts it with cocoa powder.
It is super creamy with spongy ladyfingers steeped in hazelnut flavor, a light and airy bite that still imparts the bold espresso taste. Don’t miss it. Mangia!