Despite some negative comments on this board a few months ago, a new review of Mama Teresa's in the Marin Independent Journal piqued our interest enough for my husband and I to give it a try this evening. There were a few positives, but I'll start by saying we won't be going back.
They must have known who the Marin IJ restaurant reviewer was because her experience (wonderful service and wonderful food) could not have been more different than ours. We arrived at 5:20 p.m. (without a reservation) and the restaurant was nearly empty (2 other tables were occupied). The guy behind the front desk (who also ended up being our waiter) made a huge production about how busy they were and how he guessed he could squeeze us in now. I had imagined that the restaurant would have a casual, trattoria-type feel. It's actually somewhat formal and the service is extremely snooty and affected.
Some of the food was quite good and some of it was practically inedible. My husband started with a tomato, basil and cream soup, which he thought was tasty, but nothing special. I started with a salad that was described as a beet salad with toasted pecans and oranges. It was actually mostly a spinach salad with a just okay dressing of some sort (I couldn't identify it, but not a vinagrette) with only two slivers of pecan, three beet slices and one orange slice on the side. My husband had the veal parmiagiana. He said it was as tough as shoe leather and had very little flavor. I had the penne arrabiatta. The sauce was quite good, but the pasta was way overcooked. Portions were fairly large - and they should have been for the prices (the veal was around $15 and the pasta was around $13). The review in the IJ had mentioned homemade chocolate cake so we tried to order that for dessert. The waiter informed us that they had just received a really great review so they didn't have the chocolate cake anymore. We didn't quite understand that one as we were practically the first customers of the evening. I guess a lot of people had dessert at lunch today. We did have coffee and that was pretty good.
Now for the grand finale. The entire time we had been eating, they were turning people away (despite the fact that the restaurant was only half full when we left) in a pretty snotty, rude way. A few minutes before we left, Mama Teresa herself came out of the kitchen and starting shouting to the rest of the staff because there were empty tables in the restaurant. One woman told her that all of the empty tables had people coming in for 6:30 reservations. She continued to shout about it for several minutes (the entire restaurant could hear her) even as they continued to turn people away at the door. The entire way they handle the reservations thing is just not working. They are actually turning people away and telling them that they won't be able to accommodate them the entire night. And they aren't doing it very nicely - it's with a very haughty attitude. I think people assume this is a neighborhood restaurant and, like most places on the block, they can just stop in for dinner. I understand that they might be overwhelmed by the positive review and don't know how to handle it, but their food and service isn't good enough to keep them open after the initial rush if they don't get it together soon.
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