I suppose referring to a certain type of small, independently owned and operated restaurants as “mom and pop joints” is more of a metaphor than reality-based. Sure, there really are eateries run by husband/wife teams, but usually when we say “mom and pop” we’re referring to the scale of the restaurant, not that it’s necessarily couple-owned. At any rate, here are a dozen of such precious, sometimes under-the-radar hidden gems that are well worth seeking out.
One of the most authentic Mexican restaurants you’ll find is a Rose Park wonder, Julia’s Mexican Restaurant. This truly is a mom and pop operation specializing in Zacatecas and Michoacan fare like steaming caldos, camarones a la diabla, pollo con mole, albondigas, homemade tortillas and much more, all at very affordable prices.
For home-cooked, first-class Italian fare, Celeste Ristorante should be on your radar. Tuscan-born Paulo Celeste thrills guests with homestyle Italian dishes like carpaccio di manzo, orecchiette alla Pugliese, grilled swordfish with olive-oil dressing, risotto imperiale, and so much more. At Celeste, it’s all about great ingredients and what to do with them.
Another family operation worth noting is Siragusa’s Taste of Italy in Taylorsville, where chef Ross Siragusa and his family dish up old school Chicago-style Italian-American cuisine. Start out with mushroom Marsala before enjoying classics like lasagna Bolognese, veal parmesan, osso bucco, chicken cacciatore, shrimp scampi, and of course, homemade tiramisu.
A true mom and pop operation is SOMI Vietnamese Bistro in Sugarhouse. In fact, SOMI comes from the husband and wife team of Sophia and Michael Eng, who own and run the restaurant. It goes without saying that you’ll want to order the pho here, particularly the grass-fed Wagyu beef version. From-scratch fare like the pan-fried crispy noodles with seafood keeps regular customers happy, as does the full bar for those who indulge.
Kaysville’s W. Thai Chef restaurant is pretty much a one-man operation, where there is usually a line waiting for tables or takeout for owner/chef Winai Ketbot’s terrific Thai food. Pad Thai is a popular item, as is Ketbot’s pad ka pao and his scrumptious papaya salad.
Another outstanding mom and pop Thai eatery is Yupin and Wichai Charoen’s Laan Na Thai, a diminutive spot on 300 South with gargantuan flavors. I find their “drunken” noodles irresistible. Wide, pappardelle-style noodles are tossed with a choice of chicken, beef, pork, tofu or shrimp with egg, roasted chili oil, red and green bell peppers, onion, broccoli, carrot, tomato and basil. Yum!
Mom’s Kitchen is aptly named for the two moms who operate the restaurant: Mama Chen and Mama Zhang, who specialize in authentic Taiwanese cuisine like taro and turnip cakes, shrimp pancakes, stir-fried Taiwanese cabbage, ma-po tofu, and the best spicy cold noodles with peanut sauce anywhere.
For Jewish-style deli fare, those in the know turn to one place only: Feldman’s Deli. Owned and operated by the mom and pop team of Janet and Michael Feldman, noshing at Feldman’s Deli means enjoying Utah’s best bagels, outrageously delicious deli sandwiches, marvelous matzo ball soup, homemade coleslaw, killer knishes, perfect potato pancakes, and much more, including dinner service until 8pm Tuesday through Saturday.
For Neapolitan-style wood oven pizza, Ti Amo Wood Fired Pizza in Bountiful is hard to beat. The name of the small mom and pop (and kids) eatery is said to have originated when Ti Amo owner Mauro Bonfanti shouted “Ti amo! Gloria!” to his would-be wife Gloria Bonfanti.
We suggest indulging in antipasto such as fritto misto calamari or bruschetta before digging into a magnificent Margherita pizza or maybe the devilishly spicy Diavola, topped with Calabrese salami and crushed red pepper.
Another fab pizza joint is Tony’s Pizza in Ogden, a family-run pizzeria which has been slinging perfect pizzas since 1963. It is, and always has been, a family affair with a smallish menu that’s stuffed with enormous flavor. A handful of salads, pastas and sandwiches accompany the classic pizzas here.
The Sameric family’s Old Bridge Cafe is the perfect place to savor Utah’s best Bosnian cuisine in a comfy, uber-friendly setting. Owner Ibro Sameric says with pride that everything on the Old Bridge Menu is homemade. That includes the bodacious Bosnian-style chicken-noodle soup, as well as goulash, from-scratch cevapi sausage, and the Balkan Platter that can feed a hungry army.
For stick-to-the-ribs American comfort fare, turn to Penny Ann’s Cafe. It’s a family affair where Penny Ann and her sister Cindy welcome longtime customers, and Penny’s brother Warren keeps the kitchen running while other brother Paul helps with management.
Parents Wayne and Jane are often around as well, to help serve signature dishes like their famous Heavenly Hot Cakes, chicken fried steak, Florentine Benedict, Chicken Cordon Bleu, corned beef hash, and other dishes that will put smiles on your family’s faces.
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