A husband and wife bring family and food together, Italian-style, and their customers eat it up.
Isabella Morgia di Vicari and her husband, Jeff Morgia, have years of experience in the food service industry—Isabella as a caterer and personal chef, and Jeff as a restaurant manager. The couple married eight years ago and formed a blended family with three children; last year, their partnership produced an Italian restaurant near Waterford Lakes and the University of Central Florida.
“We both come from a long line of Italian cooks, and we wanted to bring those traditions into our restaurant menu but still do something innovative,” says Jeff. “I kept having this idea about meatballs. Everybody loves meatballs. They’re so simple and delicious, and the meatballs on our table have always been family favorites.”
Owners/chefs Isabella and Jeff Morgia.
They opened The Meatball Stoppe earlier this year in a small shopping plaza that includes other ethnic specialties, including Estrella Latina Chicken Restaurant and Adam Halal Meats & Grocery. Beyond the classic ground beef and pork meatballs, the menu ventures into unpredictable offerings, such as macaroni and cheese meatballs (beef, orzo, provolone) and Italian sausage meatballs (light and fluffy, made with ground sausage and roasted fennel seeds), plus vegetarian and gluten-free options.
Not only can you choose your meatball, you can choose how it’s served: over pasta, creamy polenta or white bean ragout, on top of a salad or on a sandwich (called a “smash”). Marsala mushroom, creamy provolone, pesto and roasted tomato are some of the sauce choices, and each of them brings out different characteristics in the meatballs.
The Meatball Stoppe
The Morgias also have developed a handful of winning combinations. The Stoppe Steak and Cheese is a fresh take on a Philly: “We put mac and cheese meatballs on a ciabatta roll, cover it with roasted tomato sauce, roasted peppers and onions and creamy provolone. When it comes out of the oven, we top it with more peppers and onions. Eat this and you’ll say ‘Philly who?’ ” says Isabella.
In another life, Isabella must have been a motivational speaker. She has a passion for inspiring people and the many friends, family and customers that are the bedrock of her life. Her mission is to influence everyone to be their best self. To hear it from her husband Jeff and their staff, Isabella stops at nothing to nurture her relationships. The form that love has taken just happens to be food.
“People always think I’m passionate about food, and that’s not correct,” she says. “I’m passionate about people and their lives. It’s all about bringing the famiglia back to the table, back to their roots and traditions. At the table is where it happens for us, the food is the vehicle we use to get them there. I often say when your famiglia doesn’t want to come to the table and have dinner with you, look in the mirror. After all, who wants to come to the table with a puss face AND a lousy meal? I think I can help with both!”