Jeff and Isabella Morgia di Vicari chatted with us about their restaurant – The Meatball Stoppe in East Orlando!
Isabella is first generation American born of Italian decent, with a large Italian family from Calabria and Trieste Italia.
“Born in Brooklyn NY and growing up in Orlando since 1970 and raised in my famiglia’s restaurant businesses which they owned and operated, has taught me many life lessons including the wonderful culture of food. I did not become a Chef through a Culinary Institute, I became a Chef the “old fashion” way. My true teacher was my Nonna Isabella, my namesake who lived with our famiglia our entire life. It was in the home, with Nonna’s influence that we lived and breathed all the wonderful Italian traditions that we embrace today. Those family traditions bring the Morgia di Vicari family back to the table where it all happens for them.
My Nonna Isabella, my namesake, lived with us our entire lives up until the end. Everything she made came from her garden. She made everything from scratch. When we came home from school the aromas’ in our home made everyone crazy. All our friends came to our home for their after snack.”
What are you most passionate about?
People always think I’m passionate about food but that’s not true. I’m passionate about people, about living, about bringing the famiglia back to the table. Food is the vehicle I use to get them there.
Jeff and I developed the Community International Culinary Program for kids. Our mission is to feed families physically, emotionally, and spiritually…a focus on healthy families as well as healthy bodies. It’s about giving kids hope, inspiration, and getting them back to the table. We teach that the tools of the kitchen are the tools for life.
Check out this video put out by City of Orlando’s and Commissioner Regina Hill.
Watch this 5 min Ignite talk I gave at the National Council of Behavioral Health Conference of 5k at the Gaylord. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gd3peRsmSuM
It started with Jeffy, the Meatball Man! Jeff has been talking about a meatball shop for the past 3 years and when we acquired a small catering company that has this space, the first thing out of his mouth was….The Meatball Shoppe! The first thing out of my mouth was “do you want to stay married?”. LOL. Seriously, it is very challenging to own a restaurant and work it together 24/7. We both come from very strong restaurant backgrounds our entire lives. When Jeff and I came together it was “Mom and Pops’ marries ‘Corporate America” and a beautiful marriage it was. Jeff is brilliant and with his talents and expertise in Corporate systems he developed the systems to make The Meatball Shoppe what it is today. The system in place will make it possible to grow and open ‘many’ Meatball Shoppe’s! I’m so proud of all he’s done for the business and the famiglia. I love him very much.
What are your favorite dishes to cook and enjoy
I have two favorite dishes. Pasta Aglio Olio (Pasta with olive oil, garlic, anchovies, fresh basil and crushed red pepper….a poor man’s food but because we’re a sophisticated society today it’s a delicacy. My Nonna Isabella, my namesake, use to make this for the famiglia all the time. The second is my Mamma Adriana Vicari’s signature dish…Pasta potate e piseli (pasta potato and peas). Again a dish that my mamma was raised on because that’s all they had. This dish is my children’s favorite too because this is when we clean out the frig and throw all the vegetables we have left over in the pot and create this amazing comforting dish that leaves you craving for more.
What are some interesting facts that most people might not know?
I love to sing and dance, I grew up playing the accordian and am a Brown Belt in Go Gu Ru Karate. My Sensai would kick my butt if he saw how I let myself go and get out of shape. But as I tell my children for as long as I have breath, it’s not too late and I can make the changes needed to get back to good health!
It is my hearts desire to have my own show. I believe God gave me this gift to touch people at the heart-string level. To use this gift to impact people to make a move, to make a change from within.
My show will not just be a cooking show but a show of hope and inspiration, a show that will allow me to bring the famiglia, our community, our corporation and our America “Back to the table”, back to their roots and traditions. You see it’s not all about the food but when you’re wondering why your famiglia doesn’t want to have dinner together, let me encourage you to look in the mirror. After all who wants to come to the table with a puss face and a lousy meal? I know, I speak from personal experience. Change must first happen with the person we see in the mirror. Then and only then will we begin to see change in our famiglia, our community and in our America.
Nonna’s Traditional Italian
Vegetarian – Gluten Free
Creamy Provolone Cheese
Smashed with Sandwich Bread
The Meatball Stoppe
7325 Lake Underhill Rd, Orlando, FL 32822