Every once in a while, a new venue opens that completely transfixes a neighbourhood.This is true of Wembley’s neighbourhood pizza joint Monsterella, at which it is still – two years since it opened in 2017 – an Olympic effort to get a table most nights of the week. Now, Monsterella’s husband-wife owners Tania Nicolo and Ryan Bookless have opened equally popular sister venue Mummucc, a small bar and eatery located a few hundred metres up the road from the original. While the pair’s success has many logical explanations – there wasn’t much (or anything) else in the area beforehand; the food is consistently delicious; the neighbourhood is up and coming – there is something intangible about it. Mummucc and Monsterella are honest places where family, history and genuinely fresh food meet, and the result is a kind of understated enjoyment that people simply love.
Named for Nicolo’s grandmother (mummucc means grandmother in the family’s regional Italian dialect), Mummucc is an ode to the Nicolo family matriarch, Anna De Laurentis. Like Monsterella before it, the new spot offers diners insight into the owners’ family life, their relationship to the neighbourhood and to food.
“Food is so important for us,” says Nicolo, explaining the influence of her family’s history on their business. “And my family’s connection to this area is long and strong. We’ve lived in the area forever.”
Nicolo’s grandmother arrived in Western Australia at the age of 40 in 1955, with Maria, Nicolo’s mother, in tow at age seven. The family owned the land that is now Floreat Waters, “back when there was nothing there but swamp,” Nicolo says. They were, fittingly, growers, selling produce locally for decades.
On Mummucc’s freshly painted walls hangs a photo of De Laurentis standing over a homemade feast. It’s laid out on a table covered with a lace cloth – pasta, salads, bread, and a lot of it. “That photo was taken in Wembley,” Nicolo says.
Given this family history, it was perhaps inevitable that De Laurentis’ memory would inspire the new venue. Nicolo and Bookless describe the “serendipitous” story behind the venue’s naming: their license was approved on the day of De Laurentis’ birthday. “It just kind of finished the story,” says Nicolo. “It made it make sense.”
A black and white portrait of De Laurentis aged 60 also takes pride of place within the bar. The photo – De Laurentis’ passport headshot taken for a trip back to Italy – was used to launch the venue’s Instagram account. Before there were any images of chargrilled prawns, pasta and wine, there was just her face. Anyone who was awaiting the venue’s opening knew: this place has a story.
There was similar thinking in the naming of predecessor Monsterella, too. It got its name from their five-years-old’s endearing attempts to pronounce “mozzarella”, a story that’s proudly detailed on the eatery’s menus. But the familial influence doesn’t stop at the venues’ names. It’s everywhere. In the service (both Nicolo and Bookless are regularly rostered), the pasta and sauces handmade by Nicolo’s mother, and the herbs picked from her Zio and Zia’s garden. Perhaps they taste all the better for it. Perhaps this is why people are obsessed.
“For us, Monsterella is just a pizzeria,” says Bookless. “But when we think just a pizzeria, in our minds that’s the norm, it’s everyday food, everyday pasta. But maybe that’s something special for others experiencing it for the first time.”
“In our homes, it just feels like there’s always something cooking,” he says. “There’s never anything that comes out of a packet. Everything is made from scratch. If you walk out our back door, Tania’s Zia and Zio who live next door, who had farmed that land forever, are still doing the same thing on a really small scale. The amount of food that comes out of that backyard, continually, when they’re 80 and hardly moving – it’s astounding. It’s immaculate, it looks like a proper farm. To think of something not being fresh, that just doesn’t make sense.”
In Monsterella and Mummucc, Nicolo and Bookless are bringing a taste of this honest food – which to them is commonplace – to regular diners, and it’s not going unnoticed.
“We’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much people want to come to Mummucc and really eat,” says Bookless. “We thought it’d be more a spot for grazing, but they’re coming and ordering the whole menu. We are so happy to be able to bring this way of eating to the neighbourhood.”
“We’re super grateful,” says Nicolo. “It makes it all worth it, because everyone’s happy and that’s the main thing.”