• info@howardcountymuseum.org

  • 1200 West Sycamore, Kokomo,
    Indiana 46901

  • (765) 452-4314

Angela Martino

For 60 some years, the Martino family saw to it that their restaurant was a home away from home for their customers, but there was once a handful of strong-willed patrons who refused to leave until they had received a “Mama Slap.”

“Is it across the face? Does it hurt?” One can’t help but wonder.

“No!” laughs Angela (“Mama”) Martino. It’s like this, and she smacks her daughter Maria on the shoulder. It’s a sign of affection, a way of getting your attention.

The determined group received their “Mama Slap” by asking about the “Ragu sauce” on their entrée. Of course, the sauce did not materialize the cheaper and quicker way, out of jar, and they knew it. Martino sauce has always been homemade, lovingly so, with home-grown herbs and tomatoes, a collaboration of teamwork from Frank, Angela and son Mike. But a mention of Ragu in connection with one of her
expertly prepared meals will score you a Mama Slap.

And it is a badge of honor, meaning you have a special place in the Frank and Angela Martino family, which includes six children (John, Jim, Mike, Minnie, Maria and Joseph), nine grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

Angela was born in 1936 in the small mountain town of Gallo Matese, Italy. When she was just 2 years old, her father moved to the United States, with the intent of sending for his family one child at a time. World War II brought a halt to that plan. Back in Italy, Angela, her mom and two siblings escaped to the mountains and lived in a cave for a month. That experience explains Angela’s passion for feeding the poor and for homeless children; she has quietly supported charities around the world for years. “I know what it’s like to be hungry,” Angela said.

Fast-forward from the mountains of Italy to Rhode Island in 1954, where Angela Rocchio, now 18 and having mastered English, caught the eye of her brother’s best friend, one Frank Martino. The two were married in 1956, moved to Kokomo in 1957 and had their first child shortly thereafter.

Frank worked at Continental Steel and he and Angie started side gigs – first a doughnut shop and then a bar on North Street (now The Handlebar). In 1972, he quit his job at the mill and began construction of Martino’s Italian Villa, 1929 N. Washington St. The business thrived, built upon the Martino family recipe for success. In Angela’s words, this means “hard work, passion for cooking, perseverance and a desire to please the customers.”

An expert cook, Angela is so confident in her skills that she does not follow a recipe, measure or even taste. But don’t question her methods because in 2017, the family restaurant was inducted into the Pizza Hall of Fame. In 2020, Mama received an invitation to appear on the television show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives;” she declined that opportunity because she did not want to leave her customers without quality food or service for a week.

Angela is proud that all six of her children have college educations, something unavailable when she was growing up. She’s also proud that, over 40 years, hundreds of ballplayers at Northside Little League sported baseball uniforms of the Martino’s team.

The hardest part of her journey? Without hesitation, Angela notes Frank’s cancer diagnosis. Her husband and teammate died in 2004. “It was a big adjustment,” admitted Angela, then with her signature smile, “I had no one to pick on!”

Of the Hall of Legends designation, on top of many other awards through the years, she said, “I feel honored and humbled. Without God, family and a great clientele in Kokomo, I would never be in the position I am in now.”