Stepping into a legacy
It was shortly after WWII when a young Italian woman, Ferdnanda Gosetti, got the idea to relaunch the magazine La Cucina Italiana, a celebration of her nation’s food. She spent decades studying, preparing and writing about classic Italian dishes, becoming a national expert on the subject. Every recipe presented in the magazine she tested herself, often reworking them over and over until it was the perfect representation of classic Italian cuisine. She penned cookbooks that were translated into other languages and remain in print today.
Her son Antonio grew up surrounded by that rich heritage of food. When he moved to Dallas in 1985, he brought that experience, and his mother’s signature dishes, along with him. He opened MoMo Italian Kitchen on Forest Lane the next year.
Shortly thereafter, Wende Stevenson was hired as a server. Little did she know, 30 years later, she’d become an owner, alongside her husband, Aaron Gross. The pair have each spent their entire professional lives in restaurants; she at places such as Lola and Shensei, he at Savory and York Street, and together at Mot Hai Ba.
But they always wanted their own restaurant, and spent four years working on a French bistro that never quite got off the ground. Stevenson went back to work at MoMo a year ago, about the same time the family decided to sell.
“We were regular diners there too,” Gross says. “We were two people who loved what it was, so it made sense to buy it.”
They’re not looking to change much of anything, including the staff. Their goal is to maintain the recipes that Lake Highlands loves, pillowy gnocchi and perfectly tender risotto, for example.
“We know how people are resistant to change, and we wanted to be sensitive to that,” Stevenson says. “If anything, we put our stamp on specials.”
Some of those specials, like the Norwegian pan-seared salmon with spicy puttanesca sauce and sautéed spinach, have proved so popular they’ve been added to the main menu. The couple also launched a signature wine list that highlights some of their favorite bottles.
“We were looking to open a neighborhood bistro, and that’s very much what we got,” Stevenson says. “It is very much a Lake Highlands institution.”
Did you know: The new owners plan to relaunch MoMo’s wine club and host regular dinners with beer or wine pairings.
MoMo Italian Kitchen
Ambiance: Cozy bistro
Price range: $12-$25
Hours: Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; Sunday-Thursday, 5:30-9 p.m. and Friday-Saturday, 5:30-10 p.m.
8989 Forest Lane, suite 130