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Mamma Maria's 1
Would-be-diners beware: One visit to Mamma Maria's and you'll be spoiled for a lifetime. Don't say we didn't warn you.
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Mamma Maria's 2
Mamma Maria's provides many delights - including things like a surprise appetizer, perfect service and a supremely varied menu.
Don’t go to Mamma Maria's.
If you like chain Italian restaurants, don’t go to Mamma Maria’s. If you are satisfied with indifferent service, don’t go to Mamma Maria’s. If you like your sauce from a jar, your tomatoes from a can, and your mozzarella from a plastic bag, don’t go to Mamma Maria’s.
Because Mamma will spoil you.
Tucked away amid some nondescript businesses in a dense area of West Main Street in Salem, Mamma Maria’s is easy to miss, but once you’ve eaten there and experienced the staff’s hospitality and commitment to serving amazing food that showcases the best traditions of Italian cooking, you won’t need a trail of bread crumbs to find your way back.
The staff’s passion for fresh and savory foods became apparent when a manager arrived at our table with the wrong appetizer. I was on the verge of pointing out his error when I realized that he was actually simply showing off something that had been dreamed up in the kitchen, independent of menu or planning. Our benefactor (very pleasant guy named Vito, who apparently makes a habit of such gifts) served us a simple presentation of sliced cheeses with peppercorns fanned around a mound of shredded eggplant, sautŽed lightly in olive oil, taking obvious pride in the dish. “You take a bite of that cheese, and follow it with a sip of wine,” he said, pointing to my wife’s glass, “it’ll take you to a whole other place.” He wasn’t wrong.
After our actual appetizers arrived – fried calamari, a perfect blonde and much more tender than I’m used to, and served with a spicy marinara, along with sautŽed mussels (ask for them fra diavlo, it’s not on the menu, but the added heat really stands up well to the shellfish) – yet another unbidden sampling of firm, flavorful red and green tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil and vinegar with mozzarella di bufala and roasted red peppers showed up at the table. If there was a downside to this abundance, it’s that we were far from hungry when our entrees arrived, but frankly, my heart will go on.
Selecting entrees presented some small challenge in that there were so many to choose from. Your favorite Italian dish is somewhere on this thing, and if it’s not, you’re just being difficult. Shame on you. A full page of chicken, another of seafood, and another of veal, in addition to classic staples like eggplant parmigiana, lasagna and manicotti. As if that’s not enough, there’s traditional and gourmet pizzas, Panini, calzone and stromboli… Come on, guys! Uncle!
In the end, I chose the lobster ravioli, which came in a pink cream sauce with shrimp and crab meat which may have been just a little too flavorful to allow the taste of the ravioli to shine through. My wife’s sausage rustico had copious amounts of sausage in a light, simple tomato sauce that actually tasted like tomatoes.
As for the service, I’ve never had better. The dining room staff was helpful, efficient and personable, and the amiable bartender Brendan pointed me toward the selection of Italian draft beers, while helping my wife choose the perfect wine to augment her meal.
Take my word for it; don’t go to Mamma Maria’s.
Mamma Maria's: 2025 West Main Street, Salem, 540-389-2848