SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

June 26, 2013

Danvers chef brings Italian restaurant to Ipswich

By Jonathan Phelps
Staff writer

---- — IPSWICH — Francesco “Frank” Pellino already had a successful restaurant in the North End of Boston when he decided to open Mamma Luisa Cucina and Bar on Central Street in this seaside town.

The new restaurant opened the day before Mother’s Day, Pellino said, and since then, “It has been busy.”

Pellino, 49, of Danvers, opened his first restaurant, Pellino’s Fine Italian Dining in Marblehead in 1992 and moved it to the North End in 2012. He will continue to operate both the Ipswich and Boston restaurants.

“I like what Ipswich has to offer — the beautiful beaches and the accessibility for people out of town,” Pellino said. “The people of Ipswich seem to be nice, easygoing people.”

The idea for the restaurant came about seven years ago when Pellino bought the property as an investment. While he had been leasing the space to other restaurants, he always thought he’d open a restaurant of his own in the building when the timing was right.

Mamma Luisa opened right next to Zabaglione Ristorante, another Italian restaurant, which is owned by one of his tenants, but he doesn’t see that as a problem.

“It is a different concept,” Pellino said of his restaurant. “There is a full sit-down bar. It is more casual, but an upscale casual. It pretty much attracts everybody.”

Pellino, who is the owner and chef, describes his food as authentic, regional and rustic, with food from several different regions of Italy, along with fresh pasta and bread. Entrees include garlic and rosemary-crusted rack of lamb, lobster ravioli and eggplant parmesan.

“My concept is fresh pasta; that is my main thing,” he said. “We hand-make most our pasta; we make all our fresh breads.”

Pellino was born in Naples, Italy, but came to the United States with his family when he was 9. He said he started washing dishes at 14 and cooking when he was 15 at Stella’s in Boston. He got a degree in accounting from Northeastern University but found he didn’t enjoy the work — “so I gave it up, and I went back to cooking.”

He was 28 when he opened Pellino’s restaurant in Marblehead.

Even though he’s been in the industry for 35 years, Pellino said he’s still learning.

“I stay on top of the trends. I attend the Culinary Institute of America in New York,” he said, and he takes trips to Italy every couple of years.

He plans to add cooking classes in the fall.

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Staff writer Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 978-338-2527 or by email at jphelps@salemnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at JPhelps_SN.