Talking with RJ Ingerson of Mama Q’s Pizza
1. Tell us about Mama Q’s Pizza.
Mama Q's Pizza is a local, family owned restaurant that serves gourmet pizzas at delivery prices. Between the managers at Mama Q's and I we have about 30 years experience in the pizza industry. We're using that experience to create something different and better.
Mama Q's is a dream come true for my in-laws, my wife and I. My father in-law, Don McLeish, and I were looking at signing on with a couple of different franchises. We really did our research and in the end we wanted to have the freedom to be able to create the kinds of pizzas that we can be proud to serve to the community.
2. Do you specialize in a certain style of pizza?
We specialize in classic American hand tossed pizzas.
3. What makes a great pizza?
Fresh, high quality ingredients and consistent preparation.
To build a great pizza we need to make a great crust and that starts with the flour. We use a premium flour which has an elasticity that is perfect for making pizzas. To the flour we add sugar, salt, water, yeast and an oil blend. The water has to be the perfect temperature for the yeast to activate just right and all the ingredients have to be measured out exactly to maintain the consistency we are looking for. The special oil blend we use gives the dough more flavor. Following the above steps and cooking it at just the right temperature makes for a crispy, delicious crust.
On top of our delicious crust we layer our tomato sauce. We start with fresh picked tomatoes, never from concentrate. The company we use only picks tomatoes that are ripe and ready for harvest. This is different from many companies that harvest based on a calendar and not the ripeness of the tomato. It's a little detail but our customers taste the difference. Next we add our secret blend of herbs and spices to create the perfect tomato sauce straight from the field to your table.
Our attention doesn't stop there. A great pizza needs to be great all the way through. We try to buy local whenever possible. Our mushrooms are always fresh, never canned. We use red onions because they have more flavor. The pepperoni we use is unique in that it is a 50/50 blend of beef and pork and that ratio never changes. This is significant because when the prices of beef and pork rise or fall many other companies will compensate by adding in more beef or more pork to their pepperoni - which means the taste of the pepperoni will never be as consistent as ours.
To top a Mama Q’s Pizza we use nothing but 100% whole milk mozzarella cheese from Wisconsin. The cheese we use is considered the best pizza cheese in the industry. It is an all-natural cheese made without any additives, fillers, colors or preservatives. Our whole milk cheese is harvested every day from farms that have received a 5-star certification from the milk and dairy beef quality assurance program, which is the highest level of quality that can be achieved. Because we use the best we never blend it with lower quality cheeses.
4. Can you tell us about some of your specialty pizzas?
We have specialty pizzas that you won’t find anywhere else in Jacksonville.
Our specialty pizzas are different in that we have unique toppings, fresh quality ingredients and we add just a little something to the classics for a special kick. Some examples include:
Mashed Potato Pizza is made with olive oil, garlic sauce, mashed potatoes, cheddar cheese and green onions. It tastes just like a loaded potato skin and is delicious!
Clams Casino Pizza starts with an olive oil and garlic sauce and is topped with clams, bacon, green peppers, red onions, a squeeze of fresh lemon and Parmesan cheese.
The Hawaii 5.0 is a classic ham, pineapple and chicken pizza, just like lots of places in town - but we kicked it up a notch by adding teriyaki sauce on top. It’s the little things we do, like adding the teriyaki sauce, which sets our pizzas apart.
Death By Pepperoni Pizza is made with tomato sauce and an avalanche of crumbled pepperoni. Only true pepperoni lovers need apply! My father in law Don created this pizza because he loves pepperoni and it does not disappoint.
I wish I could list all of our specialty pizzas, but we would be here for a while! We have 15 specialty pizzas in all - 5 of which are meat free. You can see our full menu online at www.mamaqspizza.com.
5. What's your most popular pizza?
I would say the Kitchen Sink, Meateor and the Mashed Potato pies are the most popular.
The Kitchen Sink is our version of a deluxe pizza, made with tomato sauce, pepperoni, sausage, red onions, green peppers and fresh mushrooms.
The Meateor is made with tomato sauce, pepperoni, ham, sliced meatballs and Italian sausage.
6. What's your favorite pizza?
I like the Mama's Chicken Pie, because it brings back very good memories of Christmas time with family. When I was a young boy every Christmas Eve my mother would make a dish called chicken divan. It had layers of chicken, cheddar cheese and broccoli. I remember the whole family sitting down, talking and having a good time eating. To me that was better than opening up the presents on Christmas morning. Now my sister makes the dish every Christmas Eve to carry on the tradition and I just think it is wonderful.
Our Mama's Chicken Pie is made with olive oil and garlic sauce, grilled chicken breast, broccoli, bacon and cheddar cheese. I added the bacon for more flavor. This is far and away my favorite pizza, which I'm sure is not only because of taste but also a little nostalgia.
7. Is Mama Q's Pizza for dine in or take out mostly?
We do carry out and delivery and have 4 tables for a limited dine in (16 seats).
8. What is your delivery area?
The entire Mandarin area.
9. Besides pizza, what else do you offer?
We have salads, wings, Garlic Knots, Three Cheese Bread, Stuffed Bread, Cinnamon Maple Sticks and Tiramisu.
Customers have told us that our salads are the best they've ever had. I take that as a great compliment. Normally when you think of a pizza delivery shop that does salads you think of a generic garden salad piled high with iceberg lettuce, topped with some cheese and a single tomato and maybe some carrots. Not at Mama Q’s Pizza! With us you get a blend of fresh spinach, romaine and iceberg lettuces. We have toppings such as Kalamata olives, feta cheese, banana peppers, artichoke hearts, fresh mozzarella, basil pesto and anchovies.
For our Garlic Knots we take our dough and roll it into knots and baste them in olive oil and fresh garlic, with a touch of Parmesan cheese after cooking. If you like garlic you will love the Knots! We also include a side of our tomato sauce for dipping.
To make our Three Cheese Bread we stretch our dough out and bake it with mozzarella, Parmesan and cheddar, then serve it with a side of tomato sauce. It's a really good seller and a great way to start off your meal.
To make our Stuffed Bread we start with our dough and load either broccoli and cheddar or pepperoni and mozzarella before hand rolling it to form a loaf. The Stuffed Bread is packed with flavor and comes with side of tomato sauce.
10. Can you tell us about your desserts?
Our Cinnamon Maple Sticks are made with dough that has cinnamon and maple baked right in and then served with a side of smooth maple icing. Wow is it good! We jokingly say if customers only try one thing and it’s this, they will be back.
Our Tiramisu is made with whipped mascarpone cheese, ladyfingers, espresso and cocoa. When we were doing our menu research our supplier brought out this dessert and asked us to give it a try. I was reluctant because I didn't like tiramisu - some of the places I worked at would drench their tiramisu in rum and that is all I tasted, so I wasn't interested. When I tasted our tiramisu I was hooked after the first bite and knew we had to have it on our menu. We don't use rum so there isn't that powerful taste, just delicious flavors.
11. Where does the name of your restaurant come from?
The name Mama Q’s Pizza comes from my wife, Dominique. Her nickname growing up was Q, and when we came up with the name she was pregnant and getting ready to have our baby. Our son is now 15 months old so we have Mama Q and lower case q (the baby). I always tell the staff “CEO in training, people."
12. Can you tell us about your background?
I worked for a couple of pizza chain companies for about 12 years. In my role I gained extensive knowledge of processes and procedures and knew that things had to be in place if we were going to deliver a quality, consistent product. As a customer, when I go out to a pizza place to eat I don’t want to have a great pizza one time and a not-so-great pizza the next time. That type of inconsistency is the fastest way to lose your customers. That's why we work so hard to ensure that every time a customer comes in to Mama Q’s they can expect the same quality pizza, time and time again.
13. Besides yourself, who are the other owners?
Mama Q's Pizza is owned by my in-laws, Don and Nance McLeish, along with my wife Dominique and I. Don worked in the computer field for many years and has previously owned a business. Nance worked in various positions in the Duval County school system for over 20 years. Dominique is an outstanding customer service and restaurant manager along with being a new mommy!
14. You're really serious about getting involved with the local community aren't you?
Most definitely! The walls in our dining room were painted by the Mandarin High School art students.
We try to help out the local community as much as we can. A portion of our sales is now going to help feed the hungry in Northeast Florida. We volunteer at local school events in the community and we've worked with the Boy Scouts and the Fire Department. We also help raise money by doing donation nights to benefit different school programs.
15. We hear you got some tips from Robert Irvine, the chef on Restaurant Impossible...
Yes! We met Robert Irvine and he told us that the first thing he checks when he goes into a restaurant is the bathroom. He was saying if restaurant can keep a clean bathroom then the rest of the shop would be just fine. That really stuck with us and we take pride in how clean our bathroom is - in fact we want to advertise that we have the cleanest bathrooms in Jacksonville!
Something else we took away from Restaurant Impossible was our focal point wall in Mama Q’s Pizza. We were watching Season 4, Episode 4 of Restaurant Impossible and the wall they made in a pizza shop really looked cool. We took a screen shot of the TV and sent it to our carpenter. Just by looking at the picture on TV he created that same wall and it looks fantastic.
16. Anything else?
We get told all the time how good our pizza is and it makes us feel really good because that was the whole point of Mama Q’s Pizza - to be different from the chain delivery places. Yes, it costs us more to get the freshest ingredients, but the Mama Q’s family wouldn’t have it any other way.