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East County Thursday, Mar. 18, 2010 7 years ago


by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

With more than 30 years in the food industry, restaurant owner Denis O'Donnell knows a few things about food.

But at his new restaurant, Mama’s Pasta Bowl, O’Donnell is leaving the creativity of cooking in his customers’ hands by offering build-your-own pastas, pizzas and salads.

“We use high-quality ingredients, and it really comes through in the flavor,” he said.

O’Donnell’s idea for owning a restaurant based on a create-your-own food theme stems from his experience working for a company that owned private clubs. The create-your-own menus proved popular for weddings and other affairs.

One club restaurant decided to try the concept for lunch.

“People were gravitating (to it),” O’Donnell said.

When the restaurant began implementing the concept every Wednesday night, customers came so faithfully Wednesday night dinners became as busy as Friday nights.

“I decided if I ever opened a restaurant, I was going to base it on the pasta station (concept) and being able to pick and choose your toppings and sauces,” O’Donnell said.

Mama’s Pasta Bowl offers seven varieties of pasta, including regular and whole-wheat options, as well as seven sauces from which to choose. Topping choices include everything from fresh basil or tomato to feta or ricotta cheese, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, roasted garlic and green or black olives, among others.

If you do the math, there’re more than 7,000 possible combinations.

O’Donnell admits he didn’t realize how people nervous people would be about make good topping choices, so he also has a few standards options, such as spaghetti and meatballs, from-scratch soups and the restaurant’s signature dish — Mama’s rice balls.

Plus, O’Donnell is at the restaurant six days a week and is more than happy to offer his input to customers who aren’t quite sure what to order, he said.

Mama’s Pasta Bowl also offers customers a chance to enroll in its Gumba Program online for free. After joining, and each dollar a customer spends earns him or her points toward a free meal, among other benefits.

In about a month, O’Donnell plans to launch a special menu available only to Gumba members, which would include weekly specials such as chicken piccata for less than $10.

Additionally, during the month of April, Mama’s Pasta Bowl will donate 10% of your bill toward CARE if you mention the Care Program.

The company also this week launched a catering division.

For more information about Mama’s Pasta Bowl or to order online, visit

Mama’s Pasta Bowl

Location: 11161 State Road 70 E., Suite 100
Phone: 753-8200
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., daily
Line of business: Create-your-own to-go pastas, pizzas and salads
Employees: 20
Year established: Opened Dec. 14, 2009
What makes the business unique: “The quality for the price point.”


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