Last night a few of us in the Portland Food Group went to try Lisa Schroeder's (Mother's Bistro) new place Mama Mia's on SW 2nd and Washington.
I got there early and they offered to seat me at the table instead of making me sit at the bar. I liked that. They seated us to the left of the bar in a little alcove area off of the large main room. It was nice. It was semi-private, yet we were not cut off from the rest of the place. We can be a loud group, so that was good for our fellow diners, too.
We had a couple of bottles of a very nice and smooth chianti that cost in the $30's. Most of the wine list is in the $25-40 range, very reasonable, with many available by the glass. I also appreciated the choice of about 4 sparkling wines by the glass...not a common thing here, and I love sparklers. Nice glassware too, BTW.
There were six of us and we shared starters: caesar salad, fried zucchini, fried calamari, spinach w/oil and garlic (a side dish we ordered as an app). The caesar was decent, the calamari and spinach good, but the zucchini was amazing. It was perfect. Perfect amount of breading, not greasy, crispy on the outside and cooked but not overcooked and flaccid on the inside. It's not even one of my favorite things to eat, but it was great.
We each ordered a main dish or pasta: penne ala vodka, veal franchese, cheese ravioli, gnocchi (in pomodoro sauce?), veal marsala, chicken piccata. All entrees that weren't pasta themselves came with a side of linguini in either white or red sauce. The least thrilling choice was the penne. It was OK, but not the best rendition of that dish I've had. The cheese ravioli was really good - very tender and delicate but not overcooked pasta and that wonderful ricotta filling in red sauce. I'm not a gnocchi fan but these seemed good. The chicken piccata was very good, with lots of capers - yum! The real winners, though, were the veal dishes, especially my marsala.
Let me be clear, I have been waiting for veal like this in Portland for as long as I've lived here. Tender, able to cut it with a fork, melts in your mouth veal. Ahhhh... The Franchese was good, simple as it should be with lemon on the side. The marsala was very buttery and rich with marsala wine and mushrooms. Very good with excellent quality veal. The only thing I'd ask for is more of a proscuitto bite in there but, really, I'm nitpicking here.
Only two desserts ordered as we were mostly stuffed: panna cotta (w/berries) and zeppole. The zeppole were tiny versions of the fried dough balls about 1" in diameter and came in a small white paper bag (nice service touch)...had to be about 10 or so of 'em in there. The panna cotta was very good - very creamy, lots of vanilla, nice berries. I wish I had the room to order the pistachio gelato.
The bill for all of this food and drink (there was a lemonade, sparkling water and one coffee on the bill too) was just under $200. The veal dishes were in the $16-19 range and were the most expensive things we ordered, other than the wine, of course.
Servings are generous and service is friendly and attentive. Ms. Schroeder even came by the table and joined in the serving herself. (She admitted that she didn't necessarily want to open another restaurant, but that she wanted veal too!) The atmosphere is neat with lots of red (love the flocked wallpaper!), black, and gold framed mirrors and crystal chandeliers everywhere...it's early Italianate brothel, I suppose, but it works. The background music is great: Rosemary Clooney, Louis Prima, Dino, etc. - like being in a joint back in Brooklyn (or Philly, where Ms. Schroeder is from).
Other things one the menu that sounded good: cioppino (a tomato-based seafood and fish stew), shrimp scampi, veal piccata...OK, OK, it all sounds good!
Now all Lisa Schroeder has to do is take over all of the storefronts on the block between her two restaurants and become the epicenter of east coast comfort food in Portland. Are there residential units upstairs?? ;o)
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