Why MOMBO’S And What Does It Mean?
Over the years the question echoes off the stainless steel ovens and hoods. “Why Mombo’s? What does it mean?” Back when MOMBO’S was first conceived, founder Fred Poulos and his wife Marianna Poulos pondered long and hard over an appropriate name for their new venture. At the time their daughter Giovanna was about 2 years old and just learning how to speak. Marianna, a first generation Italian, had taught Giovanna to call Fred “Babbo”, Italian for “Daddy”. One day little Gio came running up to her parents in great excitement to share some discovery she had made. In her excitement she was calling out, “Mommy, Babbo, Mommy Mombo Mombo!” and it hit them…Perfect! “MOMBO! What a great name for a pizza place and certainly it reflects all three of us!” And so “MOMBO’s” was born.
But where did this great tradition of classic East Coast Style pizza come from? That’s more the story of Fred’s restaurant carreer and goes something like this:
Fred Poulos was raised in Chelsea, Massachusetts, a blue-collar neighborhood just over the Mystic River from Boston. The teenage Fred got a job making sandwiches at a Jewish deli, “Murray and Eddie’s Delicatessen”. The deli (and his Greek grandmother) introduced him to a world of food possibilities. Fred graduated high school in 1970, got in his car and followed the road out of town. He found Provincetown at the very end of that road at the tip of Cape Cod. The place had it all: art, history and a Portuguese fishing village. He harvested steamer and Quahog clams, mussels and red crab. The blue fish would chase the squid right onto the beach! Provincetown fishermen were mostly immigrants from the Azores. He got very serious about food there.
In 1973 Fred moved to Taos, New Mexico and became a part of “Joe’s Good Eats”, a 1970s style co-operative restaurant that experimented with world cuisines, made one hell of a cheeseburger and was named for Little Joe Gomez, a tribal elder at Taos Pueblo. A friend, writer Iris Keltz, wrote Scrapbook of a Taos Hippie to describe her memories there.
In 1977 Fred moved to Santa Cruz, California. After a year, Fred became homesick for Provincetown. He took a job as a chef at “The Place” in North Truro. He says, “Howard Mitcham was a noted authority of Creole cooking and proloific author of seafood cookbooks. He was also a New Orleans Jazz historian. We cooked from the recipes in his books. One night Howard came in and ordered one of our specials. After eating he visited the kitchen to show his appreciation, Howard and I became friends.” He spent the next 3 years as Mitcham’s apprentice.
Returning to California in 1980 Fred went to Capitola (just south of Santa Cruz). There he found a little spot for a take-out pizza place in 1981. He and a friend, Keith Holtaway, founded Pizza My Heart, a place that still churns out hundreds of hot slices per hour. “Keith and I had wondered why nobody sold pizza by the slice on the West Coast.” The successful duo eventually opened four more Pizza My Heart locations.
Fred sold his interest in the chain in 1989 and opened Café Rio in the southern New Mexico town of Ruidoso, 130 miles north of El Paso, Texas . The pizza and ethnic food served there earned Café Rio acclaim by food reviewers and in travel guides. After almost a decade, Fred sold his interest in Café Rio. Fred returned to his roots in pizza by opening his first Mombo’s in 2002 by Santa Rosa Junior College. The 2nd Mombo’s opened next to Fiesta Pacific Market in Sebastopol in 2005.
Great food, honest price, zero pretense and with a name like MOMBO’S, what’s not to love?