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Dallas' Momo Italian Kitchen is in knots over dodgy name confusion

Dallas' Momo Italian Kitchen is in knots over dodgy name confusion

Momo Italian Kitchen
Photo courtesy of Momo Italian Kitchen

There's a confusing situation brewing in Dallas between two Italian restaurants who have similar names.

One is MoMo Italian Kitchen, the original, long-revered MoMo which opened on Forest Lane in 1986.

The other is Momo's Pasta, which has been open for a decade, first on Knox Street, more recently at the Quadrangle.

Two Momos, two different owners.

It all started when Momo's Pasta decided to move. They're relocating from the Quadrangle to 11910 Preston Rd., #209, otherwise known as the old Sallio Bistro space.

In that endeavor, they've re-positioned themselves on Facebook from their former "Momo's Pasta" identity to a new page where they are ID'd as "Momo's Italian Restaurant." Potentially confusing.

But as Momo Italian Kitchen owners Wende and Aaron Gross have noted in a Facebook post, they are in no way connected.

The couple, who bought the original MoMo in 2017, are concerned that Momo's Pasta is confusing people.

"Needless to say, we are not moving," Aaron says. "The original MoMo Italian Kitchen at 8989 Forest Ln. will continue to flourish, serving the authentic Italian fare we have become known for."

They own the Momo that was founded by Antonio "Momo" Gattini, who moved here from Tuscany and opened what has become a longtime Dallas favorite.

Momo spinoff
Momo's Pasta was born in the early '90s, when Gattini partnered with Hoss Ghomi, a former employee, to open a MoMo offshoot, with a menu that was about 60 percent the same.

Momo's Pasta flourished: At one point, there were three locations on Knox, in Deep Ellum, and in Addison.

In 1995, Gattini and Ghomi parted ways. Ghomi kept Momo's Pasta, Gattini kept the original Italian Kitchen.

When Gattini retired, his son Carlo took over. In 2017, Carlo also opened Botolino Gelato Artigianale a gelato shop on Greenville Avenue. He sold MoMo Italian Kitchen to Wende and Aaron, two food & beverage veterans who'd always wanted their own restaurant.

Wende had a deep personal connection: She had worked at MoMo Italian Kitchen in one of her first waitress jobs in 1988. She and Aaron treasure the restaurant's history, and wanted to carry on its tradition and recipes devised by Gattini's mother, famed cookbook author Fernanda Gosetti.

"We've met so many people who knew Wende when she worked there," Aaron says. "With her history with the restaurant, we feel like we were the best people to take over."

Original MoMo now
Wende and Aaron have expanded the restaurant by adding on an event space next door for private parties, and giving it a beautiful renovation in a Florentine/Italian deco style, while incorporating personal touches such as the chandelier that hung over Aaron's parents' dining room table when he was young.

"That chandelier looks like it was designed for the space," he says.

They've been able to maintain the recipes for favorite signatures such as the Tuscan wedding rice, not to mention the food quality by keeping on original staff.

"We were fortunate enough to inherit a few staffers including one cook who has been there for 30 years, almost the entire time it has been open, and another who's been there for 25 years," Aaron says.

The name thing
The two restaurants did parse out a deal on the name: MoMo Italian Kitchen would have no apostrophe-S, and Momo's Pasta would have the apostrophe-S.

So there has definitely been a dialog about the name.

Ghomi, who owns Momo's Pasta, which is opening in mid-March, insists he's not trying to capitalize on the MoMo Italian Kitchen allure, despite that appearance on his new Facebook page.

"We are Momo's Pasta, we are Italian, we're Momo's Italian — but I don't want to use their name," Ghomi says. "I'm not sure we can change it but I have my IT guy coming tomorrow."

For Wende and Aaron, their plea is simple: "Please help us spread the word to your friends and neighbors that MoMo Italian Kitchen is not to be confused with Momo's Pasta," they say.