Mamma Lucia! Alex Ovechkin's pregame meal has turned Caps fans into chicken parm fanatics
Ovechkin has been ordering the same chicken parm dish before games for years, and now the restaurant is cashing in
The Capitals' surprising Stanley Cup playoff run this year might be partially fueled by their ghosts of playoffs past, but it also appears to be at least partly fueled by chicken parm. That's because Capitals star Alex Ovechkin is apparently borderline obsessed with the dish, ordering it from the same local restaurant before every Washington home game. It's a tradition that he's carried on for years.
On game days, Ovechkin will arrive to the arena and find "an order of chicken Parmesan, pasta, Italian bread and four (yes, four) different sauces" waiting for him, courtesy of Mamma Lucia's restaurant.
The restaurant has catered to several Capitals players over the years, but most of them have since elected to skip the restaurant's high-calorie servings in favor of healthier meals on game day, most often prepared by the team's in-house chef.
But as his teammates started gravitating away from Mamma Lucia, Ovechkin stuck with the restaurant. This season, he was the only Capitals player to order gameday delivery from the establishment.
That loyalty was highlighted in a recent piece from Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik, published in The Players' Tribune.
"We have a chef here who prepares our pregame meals," writes Orpik, who also referred to Ovechkin's diet as "borderline inspiring." "Ovi always orders the same thing — Mama Luccia, which is this pasta dish that's like chicken parm with noodles, bread, cheese, the kind of thing you want to take a five-hour nap after eating. He makes a big display of it too. There's no shame. It'll be eleven in the morning, way before anyone is thinking about eating lunch, and Ovi will walk into the dining area yelling, 'Mama Luccia! Mama Luccia!' I don't know. It's weird, but it seems normal now."
Despite the inability of Orpik (or his editor/ghostwriter) to spell the restaurant's name correctly, they're getting plenty of love from the Caps' faithful and seeing an uptick in business thanks to the team's postseason success. Some patrons have explicitly requested "the Ovi meal."
"It's just gone crazy since then," [Mamma Lucia owner David] Kottler told The Washington Post. "Tuesday night at Mamma Lucia is buy one pizza, get the second one at $2.99. … I had a huge delivery night. A lot of people were getting two pizzas, plus a chicken parm dinner. Some of them even asked, 'Can I have the Ovi meal?' It's been amazing."
(Way to sneak the promotional deal in that quote, David. What a businessman!)
I like to imagine Ovechkin, who is certainly one of the league's most eccentric personalities, walking around just shouting "Mamma Lucia!" whenever he's hungry, regardless of his location.
In any case, it's clear that the diet is working for Ovechkin. The 32-year-old winger has effectively driven away the (long incorrect) narrative that he disappears and "chokes" during playoff season. While this is the first time the Capitals have made the conference final in the Ovechkin era, he's always been a solid postseason performer for Washington. This year, he leads all Capitals players with 10 goals through their first 15 playoff games.
Not bad for a guy lugging around chicken parm, pasta, bread, and four different kinds of sauces in his belly. Mamma Lucia!
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