As Christmas draws near and the window of available holiday shopping days quickly narrows, families have even less time in their busy schedules to sit down to a home-cooked meal. Groceries are too crowded after work; fast-food restaurants fill the belly with empty calories; and pizza delivery drivers can often take upwards of an hour to arrive. What’s a weary, hungry worker bee to do?
Enter Mama Mimi’s Take ‘N Bake Pizza, which promises its customers a freshly made, delicious meal that can be quickly baked and served hot out of their own oven. Simply pick it up, take it home, follow the supplied baking instructions and dinner can be served inside of 10 minutes.
“We feel the strength of a take-and-bake pizza is really putting the customer in control,” Mama Mimi’s CEO and Queen City native Jim Jagers says. “With our concept, you can pick up your meal, you can put it in the fridge and you can cook it when you’re ready. Whether dinnertime is at 7 o’clock or at 10 o’clock at night, you know that within six to eight minutes you can have one of our gourmet pizzas that’s fresh out of the oven.”
Mama Mimi’s is a regional chain founded in 2000 by Jeff and Jodi Aufdencamp in Columbus, Ohio. The duo established several popular locations there in the last decade, building upon Grandma “Mimi’s” collection of hearty, garlic- and love-enriched family recipes. Poised for rapid expansion, the pizza company now sets its sights on the Cincinnati area.
“We’d been watching Jeff’s company for a number of years and had really fallen in love with it,” Jagers says, “It’s one of those sort of best-kept secrets in Columbus. What he’d really established for himself (there) was using fresh ingredients, using some different recipes — a really high-end, gourmet pie that separated itself from the rest of the competition.”
Mama Mimi’s debuted in Cincinnati this August with its Anderson location. By November, two more franchises emerged in Oakley and Kenwood. The new stores are sleek, modernized versions of their Columbus cousins, still embracing the original menu and family-oriented foundation that have made the company so successful.
Customers can choose from 20 classic, gourmet and award-winning pizzas, or they can build their own masterpiece using a combination of more than 30 toppings, seven sauces and several varieties of white, wheat or gluten-free dough. Three types of rib-sticking lasagna meals are also available, including a vegetarian version. Half a dozen freshly prepared salads feature field greens, romaine lettuce and house-made dressings.
Meals are made to order, then shrink-wrapped and labeled with detailed baking instructions. The 10- to 14-inch pizzas rest on a layer of heat-resistant baking paper that allows them to be easily slid from their cardboard bases directly onto the oven rack.
One of Mama Mimi’s most popular and unusual pies is Mama’s Marmeletta Amore ($9.49-$15.99), a choice of white or honey-wheat crust slathered with a base of apricot marmalade glaze and topped with caramelized onions, roasted chicken, mozzarella, basil and Gorgonzola cheese. The quirky, sweet-and-savory concoction earned top honors at a contest held during the 2006 International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas.
Cincinnati locations are stocked with a complement of local craft beers, including MadTree Brewing Company’s trademark cans, as well as a selection of 30 red and white wines carefully handpicked to pair with Mama Mimi’s signature pizzas.
“These are typically bottles of wine that you’ll see in the high-end restaurants. You want a Malbec? It’s going to be $11 or $12 for a glass. You’re going to see that same bottle of wine in our store for $12 or $13,” Jagers says.
With prices rivaling the frozen and delivery varieties of its competitors, Mama Mimi’s focuses on wholesome, often locally sourced ingredients, strongly advocating a respite from a fast-paced, super-sized culture that typically trades quality for quantity.
“One of the mottos that we use in our business today is ‘Bringing families back to the table,’” Jagers says. “What I like about our concept is everything is fresh. You always know you’re getting a good, quality product. That’s just something you don’t really see out there a lot. And, the way I look at it, too, is even with delivery or carry-out, pizza is always best when it’s right out of the oven.”