Michael Mammola

Lawrence, Massachusetts
Chef Swap Ingredient:
Homemade Pesto Vinaigrette
Cuisine Style:
Fresh Vegetables in Mexican and Spanish

Mike Mammola thought he would be a sports commentator. Others thought he would become a lawyer. The influence of a friend placed him in the kitchen, and now healthy delicious food is his lifelong mission.


About Michael Mammola

Although most folks will just see salads, Mike Mammola is making art in bowls. Lifechanging sensations are manifesting right before his eyes – and he is hyped.

He is a man on a mission to show and prove the power in fine fettle food one meal at a time.

“I want everything to be a journey of flavor,’’ Mammola said. “It has to be like a symphony, an orchestra.”

This show takes place in a haven decorated to mimic a lush, green garden dominated by a mixture of faux and authentic plants and flowers, warm lighting, and pulsating music that makes you want to dance.

He is in his zone – Zardin. With a name that means “garden of life,” this upscale healthy eatery at Market Common is where Mammola is trying to make people healthier, happier, and high on the notion that natural nutrition is dynamite, not dull.

“You know, it’s all about healthy food,’’ Mammola said with the vigor of a preacher during a sermon to an indifferent congregation. “It’s the movement in the world.”

The goodness food stuffs he celebrates greet guests as soon as they walk through the doors at 3077 Howard Ave. in Myrtle Beach.

He likes it when he observes guests take a bite only to experience that the second bite is different and so is the third. He believes each bite should catapult mouths to the next level of tastes that take guests around the world while eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Aromas of mint, lemon, ginger, and other spices fragrance the air at Zardin.

The cacophony of scents turn the senses on high, which is probably the reason behind the euphoric mood of most folks patronizing the place.

Lori Barao walked in, sniffed, and smiled. She has been a fan since Zardin opened in July 2022.

“I love the fresh food,’’ she said. “I love that sweet and spicy chicken. It’s delicious.”

The sweet and spicy chicken is blackened chicken thighs that are marinated overnight and then clothed in secret spices before cooking and served with sweet potatoes, kale slaw, roasted almonds, and a sweet-and-spicy honey mustard sauce. It is one of the most popular menu stars bowling over a multitude of bellies.

Even newbies say they will come back around for what Mammola is throwing down.

“My lunch was energizing,’’ said Gary Wohlestetter, a native New Yorker who had lunch with his wife and friends outside on a luminous October day.

He had the chicken bowl, which features juicy pieces of chicken breast with cilantro lime rice, chopped romaine, onions, carrots, avocado, pineapple, and herbal ranch dressing.

“It was fresh. It was wonderful,’’ he said. “This was my first time eating here, but I’ll be definitely be coming back to enjoy something else. Chef Mike rocks.”

He is small in stature, only standing 5 feet 8 inches and weighing 145 pounds, but he has big, hefty goals and meets them on palates.

“I want everything to be a journey of flavor,’’ Mammola said. “It has to be like a symphony, an orchestra.”

A Dish with Destiny

Kayla Zadrowski didn’t think Mammola was amazing when she met him. In fact, she couldn’t stand him.

“He was annoying,’’ she said. “Back then, he was preppy, spoiled, and cocky. He came from a rich family and had it all. He was annoying. He grew on me. I humbled him.”

She encouraged him to be his authentic self.

“I pushed him out of his box,’’ Zadrowski said.

The two met in Massachusetts, where his Italian DNA, family legacy, and tenacity to create flavor profiles contributed to his arrogance.

“I’ve been around food my entire life, and my family actually has a food show that is still airing right now back home on TV. It’s called “Wicked Bites. It (covers) the whole New England area.”

His grandfather, Pat Whitley, started “The Pat Whitley Show,’’ a radio restaurant show in 1974.

“It was the first restaurant radio show ever made in America,’’ said Mammola, a native of Lawrence, Massachusetts. “So, my dad’s side of the family owns multiple restaurants.”

Yet, his heritage couldn’t make him who he was. He had to do the work himself.

Originally, he wanted to be a sports commentator. Family members thought he would be a lawyer and called him Motormouth Mammola.

Charlie Dunne, a high school friend, was the one who drew him into the food web. Their friendship was the catalyst that caught him up in the restaurant industry.

Appetizers became his specialty at Bistro du Midi, a popular French restaurant in Boston, where Dunne was the executive sous chef. There, Mammola prepared appetizers. He saw everything was done with intricacy and intense detail. Top-notch.

Within those famed walls, Mammola soaked up more information than SpongeBob SquarePants at Krusty Krab.

However, this was the real world, not the bottom of the ocean in a cartoon. Little did he know then that his career would bring him near the Atlantic Ocean to Myrtle Beach and eventually to Zardin, where he found he reignited his passion and found a purpose he totally believes in.

That bistro gig was a momentous moment in his career because he was able to witness the magnanimity of fine dining and the minute and major elements required in next level dining.

The Irish Cottage was where he became a line cook. It was here that he realized he had a future in the restaurant industry.

“It went really well, and it felt like I had been doing it for my entire life,’’ he said.

Staffers were amazed his scallops came out perfectly, and his burgers were banging. He was still new to the game, but he came to the plate and batted like a pro.

“I had never really cooked before then,’’ he said, “but it felt so natural. For the first time in my life, I felt that I was where I should be.”

Zadrowski, however, helped him see that he needed to map out his restaurant path on roads paved in a place where his kin wasn’t so renown.

“Kayla and I decided to get away from family, get away from Massachusetts a little bit,’’ he said. “We wanted to have our own journey.”

Inspired, Tired, and Rewired

Mammola and his woman arrived in Charleston. In a rental car. He had a pending DUI.

“You learn more about yourself in hard times than you do in good,’’ Mammola said. “There were a lot of times when I made mistakes when I had the tools not to make the mistakes.”

Somehow, he stopped believing in himself. Zadrowski didn’t.

She came armed with a degree from the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts and a stockpile of confidence in him. He got over the humps, shook off the blues, and strategized.

He made quick money as a server that afforded them with an apartment. As time passed, he got back into the kitchen. He and Kayla ended up working for the same Italian corporate restaurant. They were both going to be promoted.

He was going to be an assistant kitchen manager. She was going to rule the front of the house.

COVID came and ruined their plans. Their restaurant location shuttered. They both were transferred to another spot in Myrtle Beach. Unhappy, Mammola went to a local Italian Restaurant and worked as a sous chef for a couple of years before transitioning to a small corporate restaurant specializing in seafood and taking the helm as its executive chef.

Meanwhile, Lav Hysa and his wife were envisioning Zardin. During Covid, the Greek natives discovered that their American diet was problematic. They got sick. They gained weight. They decided to return to the diet of their native home – Mediterranean fare featuring plenty of vegetables, fruits, fish, and poultry.

“Zardin is not a restaurant,’’ Hysa said. “It is an experience, from the moment you walk in.”

Mammola arrived at Zardin shortly after its July 2022 debut, fell in love with the concept, and it fired up his fervor for the industry.

“Everything we do here is for our guests to be healthier, happier, and look better,’’ he said. “That is Zardin’s goal.”

Their plan is to expand and hook your hood with wholesome food.

Sandra Akulonis is ready.

“I love Zardin,’’ said the Myrtle Beach resident, whose teenage daughter, Madison Carney, began eating kale there and totally dug it. “There is nothing like it. I could drink the dressings like soup. Zardin is showing people that food can been green and still amazing.”

By Johanna Wilson Jones

"I've been to 22 countries in four continents. So, when you can go out and try food in all these different places, you realize just how much we have in common as a species.”

Michael Mammola
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