Restaurants & Bars

Boston Area

Mamma Maria in the North End

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Mamma Maria in the North End

Jujubee | Jul 28, 2004 02:54 PM

We had a pretty interesting dinner at Mamma Maria last night. First off, let me say that it is a beautiful space: lovely and romantic. We made a reservation at the last minute and were seated promptly upon arrival in the upstairs dining room. Service was, in the end, very good, but not without big glitches. The food was okay, but I’ll elaborate on that later.

The Service:
Our waitress was friendly and took our drink orders and then food orders at a good pace. The drinks, breadbasket, and appetizers were brought out at a regular pace, and then there was a very long wait. My husband and I were having a lovely time, so I did not notice it at first, but from the time I started to notice until the time our entrees were delivered, at least 45 minutes had passed. I did wonder if there was a private function related to the convention that was holding things up. (I overheard a woman at the next table exclaiming that she had run into a Senator on her trip to the ladies room.) When I first noticed we were still waiting for our entrees, I also noticed that not a single table in our room had their entrees, including folks who were there before us and had been served their appetizers before us. All of a sudden, after maybe 20 minutes of waiting, there was a flurry of activity and about 5 tables received their entrees within minutes of each other: all the tables that were there before us, and then also a table that arrived after us. But not us. After another 20 minutes or so, after they had cleared away most of the plates from the tables that had been served, a large group that arrived much later than us was served their entrees, and then finally we got ours, along with an apology from our server. To top it off, my order of mushroom ravioli was lukewarm to cool, and the corners of the ravioli had hardened into dry, thick, chewy bits of pasta. I let our waitress know, nicely of course, about the lukewarm/cool-ness and the really hard ravioli (to which she responded that handmade pasta was suppose to be al dente – this was the only point at which I was really annoyed at her), but she offered nicely to replace it and described the other pasta dishes on the menu. My replacement entrée came out very quickly and steaming hot, and she also brought us a complementary dessert sampler and a cappuccino for my husband. Overall, I really admired the way she handled the situation and we left feeling quite satisfied with the service.

The Food:
Eh, it was okay. Definitely not worth the prices they charge, about $10 - $15 for appetizers and $25-$35 for entrees. The bread was respectable: chewy interior with a good crust and an interesting trio of spreads (bean, peach chutney/relish, basil oil), though I felt the spreads could have had more punch. The bean spread was a bit bland, but a bit of it with a drizzle of basil oil was a nice combination. We had the Salumi to start (basically an antipasto platter – cured meats and roasted vegetables and such), which was quite nice and included a couple more tastes than your standard salami and proscuitto. For my entrée, the nicest thing I can say about the mushroom ravioli is that they were very generous with the filling and mushrooms on top. It was okay, but lacked any rich mushroom punch. Also, the corners really were thick, hardened and chewy, not how homemade pasta was “suppose” to be, as our server said. My replacement entrée was lobster ravioli (I thought the menu said tortellini or something, or else I wouldn’t have ordered another ravioli). This time it was piping hot, and again they were generously filled, and the corners, while still harder and chewier than the ideal, were less unpleasant because of the temperature. Unfortunately, it also lacked any distinctive flavors… in fact, the dish tasted somewhat like the mushroom ravioli, even though the main ingredient was different, and the lobster dish had some cream in it. Well, there was also asparagus in the lobster pasta sauce, which set it apart, but while it was perfectly nice asparagus it never really melded into anything. My husband had the rack of veal. My taste of it was fine, but not spectacular. My general impression of the food was that while the combinations sound good on paper, and are generally fine upon execution, somehow they don’t combine to become more than the sum of their parts.

The dessert sampler was pretty good: a vanilla panna cotta which was a bit over-gelled but otherwise tasty, a dense chocolate cake that was representative of its class, and two ice creams or gelatos (a coconut and I forget the other – mint, maybe – very subtly flavored) that were my favorites.

Overall, it’s a beautiful room and we ended up being very happy with the service, but the food was only fine. At that price, I expect better.

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