Discreetly located within Summit Square shopping center, Mozzarella Fellas is serving up Italian comfort food with a modern, plant-forward twist. With a warm interior and inviting staff, this joint has established itself as a popular lunch and dinner spot within Winston-Salem.
With the restaurant’s two-year anniversary approaching on April 7, owner Brian Ricciardi discussed how, although the food business is a “rollercoaster,” it is an extremely rewarding profession. Ricciardi, who has been working in the industry for over 10 years, was born in New York and was raised surrounded by his Italian family. There, he learned to cook from his grandmother and grew to appreciate gathering for meals with his loved ones.
“Food has always been huge for me. Growing up in an Italian family, you know, everything is so concentrated around food.” Ricciardi said. “So, I just wanted to bring a little bit of my experience growing up to this area. Also, I’m vegan so it’s huge for me to introduce people to a unique way of being vegan and see what you can eat without sacrificing delicious comfort food.”
One of the most unique elements of the menu is the large incorporation of vegan options that evoke both traditional Italian and American dishes. For instance, appetizers include garlic knots, $6, and “Buffalo Cauliflower Wings,” $9, that both vegans and omnivores indulge in. Although many perceive vegan food as being extremely healthy and thus tasteless, all of the dishes at Mozzarella Fellas are bursting with flavor. Take the “Pulled BBQ Jackfruit” pie, $14 for a small, which includes fresh jalapeños, red onions, mozzarella, bbq sauce and a ranch drizzle.
“It’s always hard to do something unique and different while still doing what people want. In the end, you see 18,000 burger places because people want to eat burgers, Ricciardi said. “So, it’s all about finding that balance between introducing some new things that are still tying into what people are accustomed to eating on a weekly basis. With the buffalo cauliflower, everyone loves chicken wings so it’s just a little spin with the fact that it’s a vegetable,”
Although the vegan options are a trademark aspect of the spot, everything else on the menu continues to incorporate familiar flavors with new ingredient combinations. Dishes like the “Lobster Ravioli,” filled with succulent lobster and cheese for $17, and the “Fellas Philly,” which includes sliced steak, mushrooms, bell peppers and pickled red onions for $11 are some highlights of the menu. Other menu items include strombolis, calzones and salads. With all the makings of an antipasta platter, the “All Chopped Up” salad includes genoa salami, roasted red peppers, black olives and fresh mozzarella for $12. The restaurant also offers the ability to create your own pizza, with each additional topping costing a small price. During lunch hours, it is also possible to get pizza by the slice for only a few dollars.
“If I were to speak to omnivores, our bolognese recipe is really great. It’s a very old recipe that comes from my family and I’ve eaten a ton of this dish in so many different restaurants, and I think our bolognese recipe definitely stands out,” Ricciardi said.
The dining experience at Mozzarella Fellas is only enhanced by the wonderful service and staff. When a customer gets their receipt, for instance, the waiter will sign their name and put a heart in the corner. Although it is a small gesture, it definitely adds to the warm environment Ricciardi is trying to echo from his family memories.
“There are so many days and weeks where I’m like ‘why the hell do I do this?’ and then people come in and, on their way out, just stop by and peek their head behind that wall in the kitchen and say ‘that was one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time’,” Ricciardi said. “When you are working here for 16 hours a day, things like that just remind you why you do it.”
Ultimately, the quaint establishment is an affordable, delicious dinner spot that is only 10 minutes away from campus. If grabbing a bite on the weekend, it is recommended to call ahead for a reservation, as it can get packed around dinner time.