A half-dozen or so years back, there was a “red sauce” restaurant in a shopping center on U.S. 1 in Roseland called Mama Mia’s Kitchen. It had been around a fair while, served the Italian-American classics, and had quite a following.
A couple of weeks ago, a new restaurant opened on 14th Avenue – in the space that once was the French Quarter, across the covered courtyard from Baci – calling itself “The Original Mama Mia’s Kitchen.” The dishes are not regional Italian, or modern Italian; they are Tony Soprano Italian.
Headline news: While the chef and the recipes are said to have come from the Mama Mia’s of yore, this is not precisely the “original” Mama Mia’s. It has, for starters, a different owner, and some loyalists say dishes aren’t quite as they remembered from yesteryear.
Look & Feel: The new Mama Mia’s is a white (not checkered) tablecloth restaurant, set among comfortable black booths and banquets. No chianti bottles with candles here.
The rather austere décor features an interesting selection of art on the walls, and on the first evening we visited, the stylings of Frank Sinatra were playing unobtrusively in the background.
Food: Our two visits these past couple of weeks got off to slow starts, when servers brought baskets of doughy garlic rolls not in the same league as the addictive garlic knots at Pomodoro or Johnny D’s.
But over the course of two meals, my husband, three companions and I sampled four starters, two large salads, two rather watery soups (pasta fagioli and minestrone), a half-dozen entrées, and a dessert (cannoli).
For starters, we tried the clams oregenatta ($9.95), the stuffed mushroom caps ($8.95), the fried calamari ($10.95) and the mozzarella en carozza ($8.95).
First prize went to the calamari, which was very lightly breaded, tender and served with a spicy marinara sauce.
A close second was the fresh mozzarella, lightly breaded and fried golden brown, served with marinara.
We also tried the abruzzese salad ($8.95) and the scungilli salad ($10.95); in the latter, the conch was pretty much missing in action.
For entrées, various members of our party had the ziti with vodka sauce ($16.95), lasagna ($18.95), gnocchi ($16.95), veal parmigiana ($19.95), linguine with fresh clam sauce ($19.95), eggplant parmigiana ($16.95) and the fiesta platter ($18.95).
Of the entrees, the biggest downer was the gnocchi – potato dumplings that should be pillow-light and instead were leaden and doughy. One of our two orders of veal parmigiana was also disappointing; the veal had not been pounded enough, and was tough and chewy.
But the eggplant parm was delicious, the ziti with vodka sauce drew raves, and the lasagna was very tasty.
Drink: Mama Mia has a full bar, with a nice selection of cold beers and offers a choice of wines by the glass as well as the bottle.
Service: Service was very attentive, though on one of our two visits, the courses were not very well spaced. Entrées came out only seconds after the appearance of salads.
Prices: Prices for starters range from $7.95 to $11.95, with pastas mostly in the $16-$18 range, and entrées running $19 to $22 (zuppa di pesce was the highest on the menu at $29.95).
Initial impressions: Our second visit was much better than our first, so hopefully things are going in the right direction.
And if you were a fan of the old Mama Mia’s (or for that matter love classic Italian-American cuisine), you will want to give this new incarnation of an oldie-but-goodie a try.
I welcome your comments, and encourage you to send feedback to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The reviewer dines anonymously at restaurants at the expense of Vero Beach 32963.
- Hours: Daily, 4:30 pm to closing
- Beverages: Full bar
- Address: 1920 14th Avenue, Vero
- Phone: (772) 213-8888