Carlinos is a Main Line staple, founded in Ardmore. Who doesn't love Carlinos and the people who run the store? Anyway, today's Main Line Life features a glowing and beautifully sensitive tribute to Angela "Mama" Carlino, the woman who started it all. Mama passed away on her birthday November 4th, 2007.
Mama Carlino is a reason why we should all forgo those trips to the mall and chain stores - you don't meet shopkeepers like her, there. Article courtesy of Main Line Life:
Many along the Main Line and beyond are mourning the recent death of cooking legend Angela Di Medio Carlino, 70.Better known as "Mama" to family, friends and customers, too, Mrs. Carlino was the driving force behind the iconic Ardmore – and now West Chester – Italian food markets and caterers bearing her family name.
A resident of Haverford, she passed on her birthday, Sunday, Nov. 4, after a stroke sent her to Bryn Mawr Hospital the previous Thursday.
It was the week of the grand opening of her long-anticipated West Chester location, in which she intended to offer cooking classes, and interact with customers who had moved west and had asked when she could bring a new Carlino's to them.
She had been fully involved up to the day of her stroke, and had been known for tremendous energy through 10-12 hour days in what was more a passion than a vocation.
As a cook, she was acknowledged as an artist whose finely developed sense of what authentic Italian cuisine should taste like was instrumental in producing recipes that were ranked among the best.
But beyond culinary competence, and savvy that helped recruit other talented individuals to two 60-plus employee businesses, Mama Carlino – as a person – was a woman of faith who inspired respect and admiration.
"That woman touched so many souls," said Joany Haberle, front end manager in West Chester. "She would come in here, and she would set up a little home-made cookie stand and make pizzelles. No matter who came in, they got a free pizzelle. She would say in her Italian accent, 'You want a taste?'"
She became known as "Mama" because she was a traditional motherly figure who enjoyed preparing food and seeing people's eyes light up when they tasted it. Women with babies would often hand their children to her to hold while they went in search of something in her market.
Indeed, her life had always been about service. She was sure of who she was, and everyone who knew her loved her for it.
Her life had began on a farm in Italy in the shadow of World War II. From as soon as she could learn, she was taught to cook, the value of hard work, and also to believe in a good and loving God.
At 17, she married Nicola Carlino, and in time they had two sons, Carmen and Pasquale (Pat).
The young family ran a successful farm in the small town of Casoli, a province of Abruzzo. Their olive oil was sold to Colavita, among others, and buyers of their grapes included Montepulciano d'Abruzzo winery.
In 1968, they emigrated to the United States, where Mrs. Carlino began to develop a reputation first for her homemade cookies, then pastas, sauces and more, which she sold from her basement kitchen. In 1983, at the urging of many, she and her family opened Carlino's Homemade Pasta in a 300-square-foot space formerly occupied by a barbershop on County Line Road. It is evident the lessons learned on a farm by a good little girl had taken hold with profound affect, and were playing out as the Carlino family began the creation of a little piece of Italy on the Main Line.
Due largely to her popularity and talents, the business expanded fast, adding gifted and dedicated employees and augmenting services with a catering business. Pretty soon food writers in Philadelphia and on the Main Line were also singing their praises.
All the while, Mrs. Carlino continued to perfect "the family bible," as her son Pat calls her recipe book. "She's taught chefs," he said of visiting trained professionals whose game was improved by the lady who had learned it all in Italy.
And she did it with strength of personality.
"She was my mentor," said Carlino's Executive Chef Louis Pietrantonio, who worked with her for 16 years. "She taught me everything I know – and do! Mrs Carlino always told me, 'Cook with your heart. If you don't feel it in your heart, don't do it.'"
Perhaps it was this way of doing everything with feeling that made Mama so endearing.
Her spirit is also apparent in her eldest of four grandchildren – Angela, named for her – who said the Carlinos consider their employees as family and their customers as extended community.
A good policy, no doubt. And maybe also a blessing, because while Mrs. Carlino added members to her "family," saw Pat marry Laura, and is survived by her beloved husband of 52 years, she suffered the loss of her younger son Carmen when he was only 33.
But her spiritual conviction, Pat said, always fortified her.
One year, "five or six years after she was here," his mother was asked to lead a prayer service for an "Italian day of prayer" at St. Raphaela Retreat Center in Haverford, Pat said. Thereafter she headed it every year.
Mrs. Carlino also found comfort in walking the grounds at the retreat.
"She would often say how fortunate the people were who lived right next door to the retreat," Pat said. "When we bought her the house [in 1991] next door, it was like her ultimate."
This year, the Carlino family was granted the Purple Astor Award at the Philadelphia Constitution Center by the Sons of Italy, confirming the influence of one who lived by her values.
The Carlinos' model businesses were credited with regularly giving generously to charities, causes and the community.
Actually, all people interviewed for this article spoke of the Carlinos as those who return impeccable taste in every sense, and of a nice woman known simply as "Mama."
Pat said one misconception he often had to allay was that people assumed his mother had lots of children because of the name by which she was known.
"People ask me," he said, "'Don't you get upset with people when they say 'Mama?' I just say, 'No. She had so many people who called her Mama.'It was like an honor.'"
Sitting with his daughter Angela in their cafe area by a window with a view of downtown West Chester's Market Street, Pat said he missed his mother, but her spirit was yet alive.
"My mom and I lived and worked together for 45 years," he said. "She will always be with me."