In Italian, Casa Mia translates to “My Home,” and for both Marblehead’s chic and trendy and the local fishermen alike, home is where you’ll be at once you enter this new Calabrese eatery. Twenty-five year old Raffaele Scalzi and his brother Luigi (Gino) Scalzi, opened the brand new restaurant on July 1, and have already been met with unparalleled success. Nestled alongside The Barrelman and the hopping Five Corners Kitchen, Casa Mia is a stellar contribution to Marblehead’s catalog of dining locations.
I arrived at Casa Mia with a particular curiosity, anxious to see what such young culinary entrepreneurs had to offer. After all, most of the locales I’ve reviewed thus far have been well-established, longstanding businesses.
I stepped inside at precisely 5 p.m., when the restaurant opens its doors each night. From the doorway, I could hear Italian being spoken, which I found comforting and exciting at the same time. An older man, who I accurately presumed to be the owners’ father, immediately greeted me with broken English and a warm smile. “Raffaele!” he called, and just like that, I was lead into the kitchen to explore, and meet the crew.
Raffaele, who manages the front of the house, introduced me to his older brother, Gino, the head chef at the establishment, and Salvo, his imported sous chef, hailing all the way from Sicilia. Alberto, beaming with pride for his sons, listened carefully as the young men recited what exactly lead them to the restaurant business.
“My mother and father were both born in Cerva, a small town in Catanzaro, Calabria,” Raffaele told me. Ornella Talarico arrived on the shores of Massachusetts at age sixteen with her family, and Alberto Scalzi soon followed her, venturing to the United States solo, at the tender age of eighteen. They married and settled in Revere where they raised Gino, Raffaele, and their daughter, Vanessa. As children, the Scalzi siblings were shipped off to Cerva each summer to stay with Nonna Vincenzina, and a whole slew of other relatives, cugini, and zii.
With a sense of nostalgia and a pleasant grin, Raffaele recounted a fond memory, his time at La Sagra Degli Mparettati, the Festival of Mparettati, which was held in Cerva’s main piazza every August. All of Cerva’s paesani gathered together to celebrate their culinary treasure, a pasta completely unique to their region. It was boiled in a large pentola, and was passed around for all to enjoy. This was the moment that Raffaele and Gino realized food’s importance in bringing family, friends, and an entire comunità together. At Casa Mia, Gino and Raffaele have created an atmosphere that reflects this same familial comfort.
It’s not every day that you find a restaurant with Casa Mia’s culinary pedigree. Nearly all items on the menu are based on Scalzi family recipes. But Chef Gino’s execution of these recipes is what makes all the difference, as he draws upon his formal education from the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, as well. His ability to experiment with novel flavor combinations while embellishing on Italian classics makes each meal distinctively memorable.
Perched at the bar, I shared my first course with Raffaele, the Octopus Carpaccio. The artful presentation was wildly impressive, with layers of freshly sliced octopus, succulent lemon, fennel, and shaved carrots, drizzled in olive oil — it was almost too beautiful to eat. With a gentle balance of sweet, sour, and savory, it was the perfectly light appetizer. Mere moments later, I was indulging in the next equally pleasing appetizer, which arrived on a rustic wooden cutting board. Filled with Italian cured meats such as prosciutto and sopressata, olives, various cheeses, alongside both house-pickled eggplant, and house-made piccantino, a mildly spicy red pepper spread, the variety was overwhelmingly satisfying. The wide assortment of items on the platter makes this Silano appetizer the perfect choice for a large group to share.
And in the traditional Italian manner, the onset of food did not end here. Arriving piping hot was the Bolognese al Barolo, a classic dish with an inventive twist. This Bolognese was far from ordinary. The boldness of the deep red Barolo wine enhanced the natural robustness of the meat, making it appropriately rich, while still allowing the flavors of the homemade fusilli to come through. And for the secondo, I was served a generous portion of salmone encrusted with vibrantly green pistachio. Chef Gino and Salvo worked in tandem to create this inventive dish, with ingredients that worked so harmoniously together. The salty crunchiness of the pistachio married with the mild flavor of the salmon was nothing short of genius. House specialties like the Calabrese mparettati and the classic carbonara also appear on the menu, both dishes that may feel closer to home for many newcomers to Italian cuisine.
While taking the last few sips of my Montebuena Tempranillo, I listened carefully to patrons’ banter. Many were returning customers, who were already planning their next visit. As in Italy, each guest was handed a homemade limecello, limoncello, or arancello at the close of their meal, and in unison, diners saluted each other from across the room. I glanced at the photos of the Scalzi family that hung beautifully on the walls, and was overcome with a sense of welcome. Come join the Scalzis at their table, and make Casa Mia your home away from home.