A family’s Italian restaurants earn rave reviews in the scenic Potomac Highlands.
When Tony and Tina Leal moved from Florida to run an Italian restaurant in the small West Virginia town of Elkins, they were surprised to discover something Mountaineers often take for granted. “Everybody here is nice and they want to help out, whatever you need,” Tina Leal told a local news crew covering the opening of Mama Mia Pie & Pasta in 2019. “If they cannot help, they will find someone who can.”
That warm West Virginia hospitality has translated to their cozy restaurant as well, with locals swarming in to enjoy Mama Mia’s lovingly crafted pastas, handmade artisanal breads, robust pizzas, fresh home-style dinners, and more, all featuring seasonal ingredients sourced from heirloom growers along with the finest imported meats and cheeses.
What makes their fans keep coming back for more? One, Chef Tony’s delicious, soul-comforting food made with time-honored traditions. Two, the strong family connection you can taste in every bite.
Mama Mia’s makes everything from scratch, from the dough and marinara sauce that anchor the restaurant’s pizzas to the sauces that top plates of pasta and the handmade cannoli that cap off a meal in grand fashion. Meatballs are hand-rolled each morning. Fresh seafood is delivered daily. The list goes on. Bite into toasted Italian bruschetta with fresh basil and mozzarella, Roma tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, arugula, and balsamic glaze. Dive into stewed sausage and peppers swimming in house-made marinara topped with capers and fresh oregano. Munch on garlicky mussels, revel in lightly breaded eggplant rollatini or stick to the eggplant stacker layered with cheese and vine-ripened tomatoes. And those are just a few of the appetizers.
Be sure to save room for soups and salads, pizzas and pastas, subs and strombolis, calzones, and dessert. You’ll dig into New York– and Sicilian-style pizzas—hand-tossed and stone-baked—topped with all the usual suspects and everything else under the Tuscan sun.
You’ll clamor for classics like chicken or eggplant parmigiana, chicken marsala or piccata, shrimp scampi, or the house specialty cacciatore blending tender chicken, onions, mushrooms, garlic, and capers with sweet roasted peppers in marinara.
All of that food is made with love, they say, and it’s served in a casual, welcoming ambience that makes guests feel they’re actually gathered around the owners’ own dining room table—breaking bread, sharing stories, and enjoying traditional Old World foods like you’d see in homes throughout Italy.
The Leals say that passion and attention to detail make all the difference. “We believe the most important traditions in life include making food with care and sharing it with friends and family,” the couple explains on the restaurant’s website. “We take great pride in selecting only the finest, freshest ingredients to prepare our traditional Italian Roma-style meals. Our family restaurant is about so much more than sharing a meal. For us, it is about connecting with family, friends, and the community we love.”
And connect they have. Business has been so good, in fact, that the couple just opened a second Mama Mia’s in Canaan Valley in December, right on Route 32 just a few minutes from Canaan Valley Resort State Park, Timberline Mountain, Blackwater Falls State Park, and the town of Davis. The new location not only serves the same Mama Mia specialties but also offers a full bar and tavern where you can unwind after a day on the slopes or mountain trails—with either your own family or theirs.
READ MORE ARTICLES FROM WV LIVING’S SPRING 2022 ISSUE
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