SPRINGFIELD – To say that Mom and Rico’s Specialty Market in downtown Springfield is a throwback might be the understatement of the year. Since 1976, the market has been a fixture in the city’s South End, thanks to Rico Daniele and his sisters Gina and Rosamaria.

“We make homemade pastas, sauces. We have a beautiful buffet table. We put out a variety of dishes, mostly Italian foods. We make subs, sandwiches, homemade soups,” explained Rosamaria. “This is a place that’s fun.”

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Mom and Rico’s is as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the stomach. The shelves are packed with wine bottles, coffee beans, imported specialty products, and pastas, while every single inch of wall space is covered with old pictures and news clippings Rico has saved over the years.

“I keep telling him you’ve got to put these pictures in a photo album. They’ve got to come off the walls. He just keeps at it; pictures everywhere,” teased Rosamaria.

Once you get a taste of the food, it’s easy to see why everyone comes here. The best way to sample it all is to grab a plate and help yourself to Mom and Rico’s mouthwatering buffet of Italian classics.

“Meatballs, eggplant parm, zucchini, stuffed clams; mussels in the sauce,” Rico listed.

“Little bit of the old; little bit of the new; little bit of Northern Italian; little bit of Southern Italian,” one customer explained. “I usually get the Scirone; it’s macaroni pie. It’s usually served at Easter, but they make it all year long.”

Pizzagaina at Mom and Rico's (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Pizzagaina at Mom and Rico’s (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Another holiday favorite that Mom and Rico’s makes every day is Pizzagaina. It’s like an oversized, overstuffed, overloaded calzone packed with meats and cheese.

“It’s just so tasty, so much flavor to it. It’s like a grinder, a submarine, like a calzone but a little more substance,” Rico described.

Another favorite at Mom and Rico’s is the fluffy ricotta gnocchi. Gina makes them by hand, and watching her work is a sight to see.

Out of everything you can eat at Mom and Rico’s, the best might just be a dish known as Wild Pasta, a recipe Rosamaria created herself, and cooks with pride every day. It’s loaded with onions, pepperoni, basil, garlic and Romano cheese.

Wild Pasta at Mom and Rico's (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Wild Pasta at Mom and Rico’s (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

“You got to see the people that come in after they have this, and they take it home and they say, ‘oh my god,’” she said. “They’re like addicted to it.”

If a sandwich is what you’re looking for, there are all kinds of options filled with Italian meats and cheeses. Large subs are a bargain at just $5.99. For a real meal deal, grab a classic ham and cheese, still sold at the same price as the day the place opened.

“We’ve had the same price since 1976. It’s our original, what got us started, and we just kept the price to the sandwich for $1.43,” Rosamaria said.

“I hear you say, ‘They grab that and they leave. You ain’t making any money on it,’” Rico said. “But today, I’m kind of goofy, forget the money.”

Classic Ham and Cheese at Mom and Rico's (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Classic Ham and Cheese at Mom and Rico’s (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

Obviously Rico is a guy who loves taking care of his customers. In fact, the only thing he loves more is the sport of Bocce. He’s written a book about it, and even built a Bocce court right around the corner from the deli. When he’s not working, that’s probably where you’ll find him, because just like an old school family run deli, Rico says Bocce brings people together.

You can find Mom and Rico’s at 899 Main Street in Springfield, and online at boccebella.com.

Watch Phantom Gourmet on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. on myTV38.

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