Friday, May 24, 2013


"Mama's Special" is a cold sandwich of prosciuttini (different from prosciutto), salami, and mozzarella with marinated mushrooms and sweet red peppers.  It is the most requested Italian deli sandwich at a place called Leo's Latticini or "Mama's of Corona" located on the corner of 104th Street and 46th Avenue in a section of Queens known as Corona.  What makes it so special is that the bread is baked in their bakery down the block, and roasted red peppers and mozzarella is freshly made in the kitchen.

The story goes back to Irene and Frank Leo, who came over from the Italian city of Bari, opening a deli back in the 1930s at a different location.  Their daughter, Nancy De Benedittis and her husband Frank De Benedittis, took it over and brought the business to Corona.  Nancy, known as "Mama", was the matriarch of the family and the person that expanded the deli to include the Southern Italian recipes of hot foods.

Walk in on a Friday with choices of: Eggplant Parmigiano, filet of scrod or flounder; Fritatta (omelet); and Linguini with Seafood can always get roasted turkey with gravy made daily.  I decided on both the linguini and the eggplant parm.  Good choice!  They happened to have made a white sauce with the seafood being of clams, sea scallops and shrimp.  I would personally match this dish to eating in a fine dining Italian restaurant that Zagat gave a 30 to. What made the linguini extra special is that this wonderful place makes their own pasta in a store that abuts the deli.  Macaroni salad never tasted this good!

Oh, there is much more to the deli than the counter with the above hanging dry meats as well as some imported cheeses.  Shelves of imported Italian staples...they are also stocking up on the real Nutella! 

Let's get the whole family into this with her daughters Carmela Lamorgese (pasta maker), Irene Bend and Marie Bend along with a baker and staff.  Certainly need them all.  You see, there is no place to sit in the deli.  So where do the customers go?  Abutting the pasta venue is Mama's Backyard Cafe and bakery. 

The counters in the bakery extend with several glass cases of some delicious looking goodies.

Okay, twist my arm...I had to taste some pastries.  Sfogliatelle had a great outer crunch on the shell and creamy cheesy inside stuff.  I was surprised to see that cannolis were already stuffed but the shell on the chocolate one really held up without any sogginess (I waited until I got home to indulge), and judging from the customers at the counter, they go pretty fast!  Loved, loved the cannoli cream...which also sat atop the rhum baba...just tasted the top...haven't bitten into that one as yet.  One pastry similar to a macaron...meringue with almond paste. Delish!  Napoleons and more.  Coconut macaroon that is quite moist and with a bit of chocolate dipping.

Did I mention the Italian cheesecake and cupcakes?  

Definite long list of breads that include a prosciutto bread and these small round pizza looking ones with its own spices.  Great for placing some of the fresh mozzarella and giving it a quick visit to the broiler. If you are not up for a sweet dessert, there is always the taralli, a breadstick textured bite sized snack that is baked with fennel or black pepper. 

There are tables and chairs as well as a small food menu and tasty Italian coffee.  Cappuccino anyone?

Another room past it has a long table with chairs and seems to be used by the firefighters and police officers who are taking their lunch break.

So, why is it called Mama's Backyard Cafe?  Go out the back door to view an outdoor garden complete with wrought iron furniture, a statue of St. Francis, fountain, picturesque mural and a wall herb garden.  Hey, what's an Italian cafe without fresh basil and such?  Someone obviously wanted to duplicate an Italian piazza.

With a picture being worth a thousand words, you will find millions on the outside of one of the stores depicting the history of both the family and those who stopped in for a loving day of food and conversation, which now may turn to baseball.  The New York Mets.  Mama's has a few stands at Citi Field selling those scrumptious sandwiches.  When do they find the time to sleep? LET'S GO MAMA'S!

Phone number for the bakery is 718-565-9104...Mama's of Corona deli is 718-898-6069

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