Mamma Maria Review
(I posted this review of Mamma Maria and a few others on Yelp.com, but thought Chowhound might be a better place for them. This was after a visit this past winter. I can't wait to go back.)
I've only been to several other fine Boston-area restaurants (La Campagna, Oleana, Prezza, Icarus, The Hungry I, The Helmand). I'm happily working my way down the list, and so far, Mamma Maria stands out as the best. The only ones that rival its food are Prezza and Icarus, and the only one that rivals its service (and maybe surpasses it) and its atmosphere is Icarus (which is more modern so less charming, but still elegant, more private and roomy). As a whole package, nothing beats the warm glow of Mamma Maria.
I had been there 10 years ago, and all I remembered about it was that I really liked it. I was skeptical about going again recently because some have said it's gone down hill. I think anyone can have a bad experience at the best of restaurants. There are so many variables, and if none of them are clicking that night, it can be a disaster. Luckily, everything was right in step at Mamma Maria on a Saturday night a few weeks ago. There were only two disappointments: we had requested a window table when making the reservation and didn't get it, and the dessert was typical North End sub-par.
Both my friend and I started with the Ribollita, which was thick like stew with root vegetables and bread, and Italian seasoning. Yum. And filling. Vegetarians beware: there was one small piece of ham in each of our dishes, and maybe a meat broth. I avoided the ham bit and played blissfully ignorant.
For entrees I had the mushroom ravioli which was sublime and had so many interesting varieties of mushrooms I didn't recognize most. My friend had the famed Osso Bucco (the veal was free-range according to the chef). It looked fantastic, slid off the bone, and melted in the mouth (according to carnivorous friend).
For dessert I had flourless chocolate cake with mint gelato. The cake was actually bad, with the taste and texture of cocoa powder. (I'd had the same thing at Prezza, but at least there was a molten reward in the center.) My friend had the fried sweet coconut bread with coconut gelato and chocolate glace. How could it not be great? I don't know, but it wasn't. Just okay.
The service was great. The waiter was just slightly over talkative. The atmosphere was great: warm, nice views, romantic, cozy. It felt elegant and homey at the same time. What was great was that because I rejected the first table they offered and decided to wait 15 minutes for another, we asked if we could wait at the bar. The maitre d' hesitated, but said okay, which seemed weird. Turns out they were using the bar as a prep room where they trayed the orders before taking them out. We got to ogle the dishes, and the chef came out a few times, each time explaining the dishes to us. He was so convivial for such a busy night. It really helped us decide what to order.
I didn't take a star away for the inferior dessert because we all know better than to order dessert at a North End restaurant. So go, have a memorable dinner, and then hit Mike's for cannoli.
I'm also a fan of Mamma Maria's.
Just love driving up the cobblestone street, giving my car to the Valet, and walking over to Mike's for cannoli (boxed for later).
When I go into the restaurant, the waitress always asks if they can keep it refrigerated for me :) .
Then I get wined and dined to near perfection!