There once was a legendary Italian cook in Dinkytown named Mama D who gave out free meals and advice to needy college students. Is this a fairy tale from a welcome-to-college pamphlet? Surprisingly not.
Giovanna D’Agostino opened her first restaurant in the Twin Cities in the 1960s. After her husband died in 1965, Mama D vowed to feed the poor and began holding an annual free buffet. The cook eventually gained national acclaim for her restauranteering, making appearances on national cooking shows.
Mama D’s Dinkytown store made her a favorite on campus. If a group of students came into her restaurant – Sammy D’s – and one couldn’t afford a meal, Mama D was happy to provide a free meal.
Although it is difficult to think of a University-area business owner with the notoriety Mama D had, there are still many locally owned establishments whose management is intricately involved in their business and with students.
Students are fortunate to have a variety of locally owned, unique businesses near campus they would be hard pressed to find elsewhere. After graduation, many will live in the suburbs surrounded by shopping arenas identical to every other suburb.
Some suburban-style chain restaurants are creeping into the campus area. One, Noodles & Company, has already made its way to Seven Corners. Now it is getting ready to open in Stadium Village in the building that formerly housed Taste of Manhattan. Sadly, the landlord opted to quit renting to the popular, locally owned pizzeria in favor of leasing to Noodles.
If students want to keep the unique flavor of Dinkytown, Seven Corners and Stadium Village, they should not shop at nonlocal chain-style places such as Noodles. Although the days of giving out food to poor students might be long gone, hopefully our locally owned businesses will not be.