One thing youre guaranteed at the new Da Mimmo Italian restaurant in Old Town the food is authentic. Thats because chef Mimmo Russo grew up in Monte di Procida, Italy, a short drive from Naples.
And having grown up in a family of fishermen, farmers and winemakers, Russo knows a thing or two about food. With that in mind, Mimmo and his wife Angelisa recently took over the Railroad Street restaurant formerly known as Corleones.
Angelisa, who has a degree in theater from the University of California, Berkeley, said it was while she was living in Italy teaching English that she met Mimmo.
After they married in both Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches, they headed for America, settling in Oakland, Calif.
Angelisa said she knew that her husband could cook with Mimmos mother telling him he could cook some dishes better than she could, a great acknowledgement coming from a culture known for its cooking. Even when he was onboard his sailboat in Italy, friends would often circle his boat, just to see what he was cooking.
Mimmo would cook these elaborate meals, I mean (full) courses, said Angelisa.
Mimmo pointed out that the most necessary ingredient in Italian cooking is love and passion.
If you have that, you can cook anything, he said.
While the couple had hoped someday to open a wine bar and small restaurant, Mimmo honed his skills by working at Cera una Volta in Alameda, Calif., a well-known Italian restaurant. He would later work at Mariposa Bakery, where he was hired as the culinary head in charge of developing a gluten-free menu where he created pastas, pizzas and paninis.
Everyone knew he wanted to do this, said Angelisa.
Cooking at other renowned California restaurants, Mimmo never gave up on his dream of opening his own restaurant.
That would become more apparent when the couple visited Angelisas sister in Beaverton, later going to an Italian restaurant in Portland.
Mimmo said this is the best meal Ive eaten since Ive been in Oregon, said Angelisa. He said, if you find (a restaurant) here I would move here.
So Angelisa started looking around and narrowed the field down.
Sherwood seemed like a developing community with a quaint Old Town thats developing (really redeveloping), She said.
The Russos also were looking for a nice place to raise their children,
After purchasing Corleones they immediately went to work.
We did a lot of changes, she said. Mimmo change the menu right away.
What he came up with were handmade, fresh pastas with a focus on using seasonal ingredients. The couple tries to source locally and purchase organic items as much as possible.
Mimmos specialty is Tagliatelle (hand-cut noodles served in a pork ragu sauce) and a Lasagne della nonna (his grandmothers recipe that includes ricotta, mozzarella di bufala and a homemade ragu alla Bolognese).
Other Da Mimmo specialties include a potato dumpling served in a meat ragu sauce. And Da Mimmo also has an extensive gluten-free menu.
Now the pair are excited with the prospect of their new business.
Its exciting, said Angelisa. We took a big leap of faith.
Most selections are available all day with a lunch menu that includes choices of an ever-popular hot meatball sandwich, a spicy coppa sandwich and such soups as a Tuscan bean soup with chard and kale.
Da Mimmo, located at 16507 S.W. Railroad St., is open Tuesdays through Saturday; 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch, and from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. for dinner.