Restaurants & Bars

Boston Area

Mamma Maria holding up its end

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Mamma Maria holding up its end

MC Slim JB | Jan 28, 2005 08:29 AM

I think I know the streets of the North End pretty well; maybe the five-foot snow banks have disoriented me, as I have to circle an extra three blocks before I zero in on North Square. You wouldn't mind, but it is about zero out with a howling wind. As my face slowly comes unstuck, I contemplate the set menu for this business dinner.

No choice on first two courses: the three-mushroom soup with a couple of plump little shrimps, and a green salad with lemon-pistachio vinaigrette. Both are lovely. The soup especially has my cockles starting to thaw.

Tough choices for the entree: a hearty lamb stew in a red wine sauce, a couple of pastas. I opt for the Bolognese over porcini fusilli. Phwoah! So rich and hearty I can only get about halfway through it. Definitely makes my top-3 Boston Bologneses list (No. 9 and Ristorante Toscana hold the other slots). Red zin, probably Cali, washes it down.

Cheese course (with untoasted Tuscan bread: thank you very much!), espresso are excellent. One waiter and two service waiters do a near-flawless job on this party of 16. Only issue: the check gets closed immediately after dessert, a service mistake (as opposed to our host's idea), as we linger for another hour in conversation; he probably could have sold some more water and coffees.

I'll speculate that this meal set our host back about $130/person inclusive. Pricey, but the setting and excellent service are worth at least some of that premium. It's about as formal as the North End gets, and the level of the food is very consistently high, if not as innovative as some of my other nearby favorites. Glad to find it's as good as I remember it, though I'm relieved this visit was on someone else's nickel.

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