Joe Argento’s family emigrated from Sicily in the 1970s, bringing their family food traditions with them. Growing up, Argento spent time in his grandparents’ pizzeria, and at just 13, was making the pizzas himself.
“You can’t fight what you’re called to,” says Joe. Using what he gained from his childhood, Joe and his wife, Katherine, headed to Pennsylvania to begin their own restaurant journey. The more time the Argentos spent out in Lebanon County, the more they realized how much they missed the Garden State. Being so close to a city was something they loved about living in Jersey, so they made their way back in September 2019. Just a few months later, they purchased a meatball shop in Pennsauken. Having recently opened as a brick-and-mortar in 2018, Mama’s Meatballs had been running since 2013 as a mobile food truck. When Katherine wanted to go strictly mobile, and Joe the opposite, Mama’s was the best of both worlds for the couple.
The Argentos wanted to pay homage to the original Mama’s Meatballs while making it known there were new hands taking it over. Katherine, a working mom of five and full-time student studying social work, takes pride in her passion for running a business with her husband. Her hard work in and outside of the restaurant gave Joe and his team the idea to make her the new face and logo of Mama’s Meatballs.
“Even though it’s my face, it represents a lot of mamas,” says Katherine. “It’s a lot of women. Like business owners, moms, and all that.” The Argento duo also dove into reinventing the menu, adding ribeye cheesesteaks, as well as chicken cutlet sandwiches, Sicilian rice balls, pizza, and of course, meatballs.
Though the meatball concept of Mama’s wasn’t something the Argentos created, Joe saw potential in the way Mama’s Meatballs took what most people would perceive as mundane and boring, and “made it exciting and tasteful.” The Traditional Mama, a blend of beef, veal, and pork, is an authentic Italian meatball, while the Rocky Balboa is made more creatively: a sweet Italian sausage meatball tossed with roasted red peppers, caramelized onions and provolone cheese, which Joe describes as a “sausage and peppers sandwich rolled into a ball.” They also serve meatballs with a kick, made with diced long hots and pepperoncini cheese, and offer a plant-based meatball for those that are vegan. Red bean, black beans, roasted red peppers and onions, are rolled together to create a meatless dish.
Since opening almost a year ago, in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, Joe and Katherine were set on creating a safe environment with good food. Being able to easily transform their menu into take-out allowed them to thrive, regardless of the continuous dining restrictions. What the couple is most passionate about is creating an experience for their guests, bringing them back to classic Little Italy when they walk in there, with Sinatra playing under twinkling lights. With five children, both Joe and Katherine are enjoying their time running a restaurant, and are hopeful to continue their business well into the future.
“There’s people that say, ‘I don’t know how you guys work together,’” says Joe. “We relish our time together, even if it’s during work. It’s a blessing.”
Mama’s Meatballs is located at 2673 Haddonfield Road in Pennsauken. Order online or reserve their mobile food truck for any events in the surrounding areas. Check out their Instagram to stay updated on new events and menu items.Click here to leave a comment