There are just too many Osterias in town. From Mozza, La Buca, Angelini, and Mamma, it’s quite difficult to keep them all straight. The common theme for all these restaurants stems from the meaning of “osteria” which “in Italian literally means a place where the owner ‘hosts’ people, or an Italian-style eating establishment, similar to a tavern, usually in the country, less formal than a ristorante or trattoria, where wine is served as the main attraction and tasty food is served to wash it down.” Since I have now been to all these Osterias, I can confirm that they all share a casual ambiance and serve food that is without frills.
Osteria Mamma is unfortunately the least impressive of all these Italian eateries. It’s not that Mamma doesn’t know her pasta, it’s just that La Buca, and especially Angelini and Mozza know it a whole freaking lot better. It’s not fair to compare since the price point is considerably more damaging to the wallet at the latter two places. Panda Bear, Little Bear, Luau Bear, Bubble Bear, and The Bottomless Pit (aka Hates Asian Food) gathered for the hope of good eats.
Polipolata grilled mediterranean octopus, fresh celery, lemon, extra virgin olive oil and potatoes
I was highly anticipating a warm salad of grilled octopus that was tender while toothsome on the inside and charred and crispy on the outside. Unfortunately, the octopus was just too soft and lacked texture. It also had a weird fishy taste which only added insult to injury. And as a final slap in the face, the dish was sorta room temperature. It was confusing. They certainly were generous on the protein, but the dish could have used more balance from the other elements, but maybe not the tomatoes which were disappointingly tasteless. I will admit, the olive oil was amazingly fragrant!
Crostini di Burrata burrata crostini with black truffle and prosciutto
The burrata didn’t quite have the creamy light texture that I had come to expect after having similar dishes from Mozza’s mozzarella bar. The black truffles were the highlight of it all. The rest was quite unmemorable.
Gnocchi ai Porcini light cream sauce, porcini mushrooms, all natural free range jidori chicken
I’m not quite sure if this was the exact dish that we actually had, but it really doesn’t matter because the star of the show was the gnocchi. They could have served it with shoe polish and it would still be crazy awesome. They were delightful and pillowy soft. Every bite reminded you that you were eating the best potato ever. The gnocchi here is a MUST.
Bigoli Neri alla Bottarga black squid ink bigoli, organic cherry tomatoes, shrimp and bottarga
I had high hopes for this dish, but it had that same fishiness that I found off in the octopus. But now that I dissect the dish, it was probably the bottarga, which I now know to be “poor man’s caviar, or the roe pouch of tuna, grey mullet, or sometimes swordfish.” The pasta was perfectly al dente.
Reginette della Mamma cream sauce, guanciale, sausage, treviso radicchio
I enjoyed the al dente ribbons of pasta, although they didn’t quite twirl onto my fork without breaking. The sauce wasn’t too creamy, but the sausage or guanciale added a tad too much salt. After having a nice sampling of all the other pastas, I could barely finish this. The Bottomless Pit (aka Hates Asian Food) so valiantly stepped in to save me from drowning in carbs.
I usually do not enjoy tiramisu and its mostly because of the texture of the liquer/espresso soaked lady fingers. The marscapone cream I do not mind so much. Here, however, every component came together nicely and I certainly had my fair share between the 6 of us.
We ordered 1 and got 2! Some hypothesized that Mamma’s son noticed me snapping pictures and wanted to sweeten me up, a blogger who could spread the good word about the place. I highly doubt that theory, but I can’t imagine he gives every party free dessert. It’s not like there wouldn’t have been enough to go around with 1 panna cotta and 1 tiramisu. The panna cotta was pretty standard.
It probably seems like I didn’t like Osteria Mamma. For the price and the friendly service, it’s a nice little Italian joint. I just think my expectations were too high. If I were to come back, it would be for the gnocchi for sure.
5732 Melrose Avenue