Benvenuto al mio blog humble! Speranza godete questa entrata circa alimento italiano!
Today we have something a special, an Italian restaurant in Pacific Beach owned by Italians with Italian servers and a head Italian chef that shout Italian at each other all night long. I feel like I'm back in Italy! (or not).
Located in a small house on Balboa Avenue the restaurant is owned by a husband and wife, husband does the greeting and the wife does the cooking (supervision I assume).
The fun thing of this restaurant is that the owner is a really loud guy, Francesco Mezzetti, but loud in that friendly "come give uncle Joe a hug" kind of way. He yells out to every person that walks in "CIAO BELLA! (if you're a girl)" and "CIAO *KISS KISS*" (that he knows, which does not include me) and gives them the patented European hug and kiss greeting. Actually he even goes to people's tables and yells at them. I guess its kind of nice if you like that kind of thing. The ongoing joke that we have is that every single person with any "power" at the restaurant seems to be yelling at this girl Franchesca to do something. "FRANCHESCA GO GETA SOME WATER!", "FRANChESCA SEAT THE TABLE OF FIVE"! Poor Franchesca.
The main problem with this restaurant is visible the moment you step in, it's really a small restaurant, at the most it has 10-12 tables and some of those tables are for 2. So if you decide after this posting that you want to go, I suggest that you get a reservation. Even with a reservation we still had to wait about 20 minutes to be seated. They have an outdoor patio, which on the cold days of San Diego really bring a chill down your spine. I do suggest eating in the hustle/bustle/loud inside eating area.
As well, since its located on Balboa Avenue there really isn't much parking available. You HAVE TO park on the street. What looks like a parking lot to the left of the restaurant is actually for the 7-11 that is strictly for 7-11 patrons.
After poor Franchesca seated us at the table we perused the menu. Pasta, pizza, standard Italian entree dishes, and appetizers on this 4 page menu.
Since it was 7:30 by the time we sat down for our 7pm reservations Frank and I (Eating Companion #2 is excluded from our appetizer) ordered an their appetizer of special of the day.
Two varieties of Zeppole, one with ham and mozzarella cheese and the other with mushroom and Gorgonzola, served with a side of Marinara sauce.
Deliciously crispy and airy fried bread. What more can you ask for? Lightly stuffed with the aforementioned ingredients, you get a good balance of dough and saltiness. Some could (and probably should) complain that they are a bit skimpy on the ingredients but as you may know, I love all things fried, so I might be a bit biased.
Next up is the cheese Ravioli with meat sauce.
Before I actually get into this dish, I'd like to get into something that I'm sure people have noticed while eating here. Almost every single sauce here that's not "cream" sauce is exactly the same. They are pouring the same "meat/cheese" sauce on every single pasta dish, may it be Cannoli, Ravioli, Lasagna, Gnocchi or whatever else. I wonder if anyone else has made this observation because I see a ridiculous amount of people talking about how authentic this restaurant is.
This restaurant is about as authentic to Italian food as PF Chang's is to Chinese food. I understand the people speak Italian to each other, they serve pasta, but everything is pretty typical Italian food fare, nothing you can't find at the Macaroni Grill. What I do believe is that its more "home style" cooking but it is definitely not "authentic" Italian. (I don't want to hear that its an Italian lady cooking, cause last time I checked in Monterey Park the authentic Chinese restaurants have more people from south of the border than from the far east). But do not let this detract you from coming to this restaurant, its still very good, I just wanted to address that concern. Now back to the Ravioli.
Perfectly cooked Ravioli and heavily stuffed cheese. In the picture you can see how plump the ravioli is. The noodles are cooked very well, doughy yet soft, and for ravioli this thick, I'm surprised that some pieces aren't undercooked and some aren't over cooked. The meat sauce is what's really good here. Like I said previously I have no qualms with the sauce, it is actually very delightful. It has a light creamy cheese taste to it but is mixed in with lean ground beef.
Next up is my Lasagna.
Inside the Lasagna is the same meat/cheese sauce that was on the Ravioli. Unlike the Ravioli, the sauce was pretty sparsely used on the lasagna, which led to a rather bland tasting meal. I felt like I was just eating forkfuls of dough. I mean, it was great dough, nice and thick but it definitely needed some more sauce on top or at least more filling inside.
Finally the Penne pasta with sausage and onions with oil.
Eating Companion #2' first statement was, I could make this at home (she wasn't happy with that).And she's absolutely right, you could make this at home if you were able to make peppery meaty sausages, perfect al dente penne, and a nice chili oil. On its face it is quite simple, but the preparation was the key to its success in my mind. Eating Companion #2 did not find it flavorful enough so she actually added the marinara sauce from the appetizer into this dish. To be honest, that actually made the dish exponentially better. Something to think about Mamma Mia. With the added tomato sauce it really reminded me of the spicy seafood pasta I had in Florence which was an absolute delight.
All in all Mamma Mia's is an enjoyable place. The previous time I had their Gnocchi, and like all their other dishes their pasta is TOP NOTCH. Their Gnocchi is without a question their best dish there.
So if you're looking for good Italian food with a home cooked style then head on over to Balboa Avenue and get ready to get verbally assailed by a loud Italian man.
1932 Balboa Ave
San Diego, CA 92109
(858) 272.2702 (make sure you call for reservations)