Photo by contributing writer Athena Serrano.
Dining at Da Mimmo and waiting long periods for my food was like living its episode on “Kitchen Nightmares,”but there were still fun, joyous musical vibes that night – and amazing pizza.
Located in Dumont at Veterans Plaza, Da Mimmo is an Italian American restaurant run by the Gigante family, who were originally from Hoboken. First opening doors in December 2022, the restaurant replaced the former Italian restaurant Il Mulino. The origin of the restaurant’s name stems as a tribute to Dominic Rizzi, the late uncle of owner and family matriarch Melissa’s husband, Hoboken police detective Vito Gigante Sr, and a former chef at Jersey City’s Casa Dante and Clifton’s Valley Regency. Da Mimmo translates to from Italian as “From Mimmo,” Mimmo being a nickname of Rizzi.
“My husband and my boys always used to talk about wanting to open up a restaurant together,” Melissa told Slice of Culture. “So when we decided to change the restaurant over, it was only fitting to pay homage to [Rizzi].”
However, the business accumulated nearly $500,000 in debt within half a year of opening.
There was also frustration from eldest son, manager and pizza maker, Antonio, towards his younger brothers, Vito and Vincent, feeling as if they were not helping out with the restaurant’s business that much. Instead, they were focusing more on their personal TikTok accounts, which have nearly 3.5 million followers combined. This led to Melissa seeking the help of Gordon Ramsay and being featured on recent episode 3 of the reboot and eighth season of “Kitchen Nightmares.”
When Ramsay came to visit and help, he remarked, “I honestly have never seen a new business so dysfunctional so early.”
He also gave a serious talk to Vito and Vincent in the episode, calling them “snowflakes” and urging them to help their mother and brother by using their social media influence to drive some potential profit to the restaurant.
“All this restaurant needs is 5% of your followers and this place is full for the next six months,” Ramsay firmly said.
Although Melissa and her family had to handle some of the harsh criticism from Ramsay in the episode, she said being on the show was “a lot of fun” and the producers and crew were “just great.” She praised Ramsay’s sincerity for wanting to help businesses become as successful as they can get.
“Just right off the bat, [Gordon was] a genuine guy. It was so easy to talk to him. It was almost like I was confessing my sins to him,” she added.
“It was just comfortable to say whatever I was saying. At that point, I didn’t care that there were cameras everywhere. We had a connection we don’t see on television, but we had a connection on family ties. He’s a sweetheart.”
She also reiterated that her older sons’ relationships have always been cordial, “just that Antonio gets stressed out.” “I know [Vito and Vincent’s] personalities so I don’t ask them to serve. But they help now. They’re like, ‘Ma, we gotta do a video. What do we do?’ Of course they exaggerated their behavior on television, but they do advertise.”
Now let’s get into my experience dining at Da Mimmo.
I reserved a table for my boyfriend and I via Yelp for 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 21. Upon entering the restaurant, you first see the fresh modern designs of the wooden cutting boards on the wall that Ramsay’s team renovated over the former graffiti “monstrosity” on the show. You can spot an honorable cardboard cut-out of the fiery chef himself in the corner.
Since it was five days since their episode aired, it was not surprising to see the restaurant very active.
However, there were many elderly and middle-aged folks dining at the restaurant the night we arrived because the acapella group Party of Five was performing lively song covers from the 50s and 60s that night. Because of this, there was a $10 charge per person for the event.
I overheard there were people entering just to see the group perform. There were also customers who personally know the Gigante family, attending to give support and socialize.
“We’re noticing more reservations, new faces [and] a lot of positivity,” Melissa said.
There were large parties of groups coming in at the same time as my boyfriend and I entered.
As there was no reception desk when I was there, we waited a few minutes to be directed to the table, and I immediately wondered how fast the restaurant service would be. Melissa eventually greeted and directed us to a table. My first impression was that she was hospitable but also apologetic due to her duties carrying on the night’s event and checking on other tables to see if they are enjoying themselves.
Understandably due to how busy it was, many tables and chairs were cramped around, and our table was one right next to the door.
But my suspicions about the restaurant service being slow were then found to be correct. In the end, we stayed in the restaurant for two hours and fifty minutes. Almost three hours.
My boyfriend and I waited 10 minutes until a menu was finally given to us by a waiter. There was another wait of 25 minutes for our to be finally taken, which was done by Melissa. But I was feeling impatient throughout half of my time at the restaurant, even wishing one moment for Ramsay’s cut-out to come to life and exclaim like in the episode, “You need to control the situation,” to the staff that my table had been waiting for a while.
“The waiters are so overwhelmed because not only do we have a lot of people, I changed the floor plan for them for the night,” Melissa said. “So they’re very confused on what’s going where.”
The menu is the revised one Ramsay helped put together on the show, and the prices are mid tier.
As expected for an Italian restaurant, there were antipasti, pasta, pizza and entrees. There were also sides such as cesare and panzanella. We ordered arancini–which was featured in the show–farfalle bolognese and a margherita pizza.
After nearly a half hour of waiting, we were first served our arancini and farfalle bolognese. I especially liked the former, relishing how soft and crisp the risotto was. As a mozzarella fan, I savored the taste of cheese inside. A thumbs up to Gordon Ramsay for adding this!
The bolognese, however, was rather bland and in high need of more flavor, along with sauce tasting watery too. The food portions were also big and very filling, which I generally have trouble finishing because my personal appetite is lower than some others. This is also not surprising since it’s no secret American portions on average are huge; portions tend to be smaller in Italy. But the large portions may work better for people with bigger appetites. We did pack leftovers to take home in the end.
But the best and tastiest of all was the heavenly oven-baked margherita pizza.
The tomato sauce used was ripe and juicy and the cheese and the basil and mozzarella cheese fresh. The crust was a nice mix of thin and thick. Although I disliked having to wait another long period for an hour after our antipasti and bolognese, even reminding one of the waiters about it, it’s still definitely one of the best pizzas I’ve tasted thus far. We ordered another pie to take home for my dad to try (another long wait for).
I highly recommend eating one if you love margherita pizzas!
In the “Kitchen Nightmares” episode, Antontio and assistant pizza maker, Tyler, train under chef Dan Richer on how to properly bake pizza with fresh ingredients.
Richer runs the Jersey City restaurant Razza Pizza Artigianale, which received a three star review from the New York Times in 2017. It was also named Best Pizza in North America by 50 Best in 2019. Although I have not tried Razza’s pizza, it seems Da Mimmo’s pizza has indeed learned from the finest.
If you ever dine in the restaurant yourself, you will find Antonio in the far upper left corner baking the pizzas in their vivid red brick oven that was added by Ramsay’s renovation team.
Because of Party of Five’s loud performance, even with my naturally loud voice, my boyfriend and I had a difficult time communicating vocally. But despite not being the target demographic, I did enjoy their covers of old-school songs such as “My Girl” by The Temptations (my parents would’ve loved this!) and “(You Gotta Walk) Don’t Look Back” by Peter Tosh and Mick Jagger.
There were couples getting up to groove together on the dance floor, including the Gigantes.
Due to her experience being a former Hoboken police lieutenant, Melissa is generally the main event planner coming up with ideas to bring community and socialization.
“In my police job, I’ve always been involved in community and charity events,” she said. “I have a lot of experience with doing this, and I just like it because I want people to know they’re coming in for a meal but also let them know we’re doing this.”
I enjoyed watching people happily having fun and being physically active during the event, and it would be great to see more local younger artists appear there in the future to bring a similar energy for the crowd.
Melissa stated she “wants to attract different crowds” so that’s promising. You can find info of their upcoming special events on their website.
If you ever find yourself craving fresh oven-baked pizza and arancinis and are in the Dumont area, this a great place to get them. But if you are a rather impatient person or you have plans after and are just coming to eat, it may be best not to reserve a table during very busy event hours and just drop by on a regular day.
Da Mimmo is open from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. They also take online delivery orders between 4:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.