Nicolina "Mama" DiSpirito
as Executive Chef
Nicolina DiSpirito, Rocco's mother, or “Mama” as she is fondly called by everyone associated with NBC’s “The Restaurant,” is Executive Chef of “Rocco's” and the mother of three. She was born in San Nicola Baronia, Avellino, Italy, in 1926. She arrived in New York on May 1, 1951, and went right to work. From the airport she was driven to Rosslyn, where she worked in a tailor's shop until nine o'clock that same evening. Nicolina continued to work in the shop for three years as a dressmaker, seamstress and drycleaner.
In 1954 Nicolina returned to Italy to marry Ralph DiSpirito. There she had a daughter. A year later, she returned to New York and moved to Jamaica, Queens. Again, she went to work immediately, this time doing piece-work sewing sweaters. She made 75 cents for a dozen completed sweaters. Nicolina and Ralph had two sons and she began working part time preparing lunches for a business in Manhattan.
Shortly after Thanksgiving in 1983, Nicolina began cooking school lunches at PS 95 in Jamaica. She retired in 2003 from the school. Rocco led her to the kitchen of Rocco's, where she became not only “Mama” on NBC’s “The Restaurant,” but also Executive Chef.