Mimi Tumminello, aka Mimma, makes arancini at Little Sicily Trattoria. The Cape Coral restaurant moved south to Cape Coral Parkway last summer. / The News-Press file photo
LITTLE SICILY TRATTORIA
1211 Cape Coral Parkway E., Cape Coral
• Price: $$-$$$
• Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday to Saturday, closed Sunday
• Call: 945-7285
• Noise level: Low to moderate
• Etc.: Bring your own beer and wine, no corkage fees; takeout and catering; call-ahead seating; recommended desserts include tiramisu, cannoli and fig cookies.
SAMPLE OF THE MENU
• Arancini, $4
• Mediterranean beach bread, $7
• Eggplant rollatini, $5
• Pizza by the slice, $2
• Spaghetti and meatballs, $13
• Penne alla vodka, $13
• Chicken Marsala, $16
• Veal Parmigiana, $16
Linger long enough at Little Sicily Trattoria and you may catch Mimma, as she is known, exiting the kitchen in her powder-blue duster, purse slung over one shoulder.
After 12 hours spent stuffing her manicotti, simmering her red sauce and rolling her tagliatelle into soft ribbons, the sun has set, the dining room has thinned and it’s time for Mimma to rest.
She’ll be back again tomorrow to do it all again.
Legally known as Mimi Tumminello, the 76-year-old Mimma is just one of the Tumminellos hard at work at Little Sicily. Her son Vinny owns the place. He’s the guy behind the counter tossing pizza dough for thin-crusted pies to be topped with soppressata and good mozzarella. Her little sister Marie Consigliati is the 74-year-old who helps make pastas in the afternoons.
For six years the Tumminellos have treated Little Sicily’s loyal regulars to tastes of their home. Last summer they moved from a tiny space on Pine Island Road to an equally tiny space on Cape Coral Parkway. Tables remain simple, alcohol remains BYOB, and Mimma’s dishes remain as homey and heartfelt as ever.
Take the arancini, perfect balls of risotto stuffed with lumps of sausage and cheese, then rolled in bread crumbs and fried till crisp. Your pulse quickens as your fork cracks the outer crust, slipping through to the creamy interior. The first bite leaves heaving sighs and guttural moans in its wake.
Calamari are served in fat, tender rings dusted in a smidge of seasoned cornmeal. There is marinara, you notice, but for once in your calamari-eating life you don’t really need it.
As delicious as they are, Little Sicily’s plates tend to come with apologies; “Sorry for the wait” being a common refrain. Servers here are family too (or close to it), so they’re quick to warn you when Uncle Vinny is backed up in the kitchen, or when Mimma’s daily allotment of tagliatelle or stuffed mushroom caps has been exhausted.
But after a few luscious bites of one of the best vodka sauces you’ve ever tasted, those waits are forgotten.
Gnocchi have a springy chew under a velvety blanket of long-simmered Bolognese. Lasagna is spread with richly whipped ricotta the texture of cake frosting. There are tortellini tossed with shrimp and artichoke hearts, and spaghetti with meatballs that taste of decades of experience.
Sit down after 7:30 p.m. and there’s a good chance at least one of the dessert specials will be crossed off the board. Pray it’s not the tiramisu. At Little Sicily this sweet classic comes layered in a tumbler glass, each airy bite tasting of booze-soaked lady fingers and thickly whipped mascarpone.
As you savor another spoonful, you hear the shuffle of Mimma’s footsteps. The dining room is almost empty, as is the bottle of pinot noir you brought. Mimma wishes you a good night. Your mouth is full so you nod as appreciatively as possible and hope that, six years from now, this remarkable family is still around.
Jean Le Boeuf is the nom de plume of a local food lover who dines at The News-Press’ expense. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org; facebook.com/JeanLeBoeufSWFL or @jeanleboeuf (Twitter).