Boston Eats: Mamma Maria @ North End

A few nights ago, I met up with some friends from my college days for dinner. Other than me, everyone at the table was graduating from Harvard, and two of them are already (and have been) medical doctors for years. Many people tell me I’m an over achiever, but sitting at a table with these folk, I feel like I’m an underachiever! Since we’re celebrating their graduation from Harvard, we went to one of the best (or so I’ve heard) restaurants in Boston – a little Italian gem in the North End – Mamma Mia.

In my four and a half years living in the US, I’ve never been to a more upscale place. In the grand scheme of things, one probably wouldn’t call Mamma Mia an upscale restaurant at all, but it was as upscale as I’ve ever been, with appetizers were in the $15+ range, main courses in the $30+ range. Jas and I consider a nice meal as spending somewhere around the ballpark of $30 for the both of us! So, this was definitely a huge treat for me!

That night, I spent what I considered to be a ton of money, which was still a tiny fraction of what the boys each spent. I had a tasting of the other side. On my train ride back, I wondered how life might be different for me if I weren’t a poor grad student/starving artist. Would I still be as interested in cooking and making things from scratch? Would I be scouting out and dining at the best restaurants in the city night after night?Would I still be happy? [Ahh… that golden question!]

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Us at Mamma Mia!

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A drink menu, a main menu and a dessert menu plus many glasses and multiple sets of silverware. I’m not used to this at all.

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Bread, olives and pesto.

When we first sat down, we were served some bread, an array of different olives, and some pesto. The pesto was delicious, and I had some olives too – they were okay. I don’t really understand olives, so they might have been great olives, but I wouldn’t know. The bread was a little hard, and it was not warm either. I would have loved me some soft warm bread, but too bad, it wasn’t so.

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The boys had some appetizers, and I took a teeny tasting of each. Also, I found it a little strange for the server to bring out this massive pepper grinder at every single course, especially when some plates have obviously been ‘peppered’ before they were served? Does every single dish need freshly ground pepper? Does it change the dish to ‘pepper’ it at the table rather than in the kitchen? I don’t know. Just an observation.

Mozzarella [Creamy buffalo mozzarella flown fresh from Apulia, Italy – with tomato-caper relish, Parma prosciutto, and baby heirloom tomatoes] – $16: The server recommended this for an appetizer. While this buffalo mozzarella was indeed quite different from regular nice fresh mozzarella (I’m thinking of those $8 balls from Trader Joes) – they are really soft and pudding-like, what it adds in texture does not make up for the loss of flavor. Somehow, the buffalow mozzarella is not as flavorful as ‘cow’ mozzarella. The tomato relish was absolutely delicious, but I’m not sure it makes up for it. 

Salmon Tartare – $16: This is also another special item for that day. I did not try it personally, but I was told that it was very good! I did notice that the tartare was in two layers – a cucumber/avocado layer on the bottom and the salmon layer on top. [Forgot to take a picture of it!]

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Lobster Ravioli – $16: Yes, you get one ravioli for $16. However, it is filled with chunks of lobster meat and is well flavored and delicately put together. It’s also a special item and not on the regular menu! *Yum*

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Suckling Pig [Vin Santo-glazed suckling pig from Quebec, with fig jam, tri-colored beets, and toasted faro] – $29: This was my main course, and it was absolutely delicious! It’s one of those ‘take my money’ moments, and if you know me, you’ll know that that’s a huge deal! The pork is so tender, nicely fatty (you know I love my pork fat!) and so crispy! Imagine the crispy skin of Cantonese roasted pork, with the tenderness of braised pork. Yup, it is awesome! Also, it’s the first time I had faro. Faro, like rice, is pretty tasteless, but the glaze was so delicious and sweet, I lapped up every single drop on the plate. YUM!

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Osso Bucco [Veal osso bucco in the classic style with saffron risotto Milanese] – $38: This is the restaurant’s signature dish! This is the modern type of osso bucco that has tomatoes in it. I didn’t try this, but I heard from my friend that it is incredibly tasty! The special bit is the bone marrow that’s left in the bone!

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Beef [Certified Angus beef tenderloin with Hudson Valley foie gras, fingerling potatoes, sweet baby peppers, and fresh sea beans] – $34: This was my friend MC’s pick, and he said it was absolutely delicious! The beef was perfectly cooked and nicely paired with the foie gras. Everything else complimented the meat really well, and the plate was a nice pop of color!

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Clam & Crab Pasta Pasta [alla chitarra with fresh Maine crabmeat, local Falmouth clams, toasted pine nuts, Parma prosciutto, and sautéed pea tendrils] – $29: Here’s Farid’s pick. He commented that while everything was beautifully cooked, it tasted slightly bland for his taste.

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Chocolate Torte [“Della Nonna” “Grandmother’s” warm bittersweet chocolate torte with homemade espresso gelato] – $7.50: This was so chocolatey and had a jelly-ish texture. Instead of a tart, I would describe it more as a pudding. Also delicious!

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Mamma Maria
Address: 
3 N Square Boston, MA 02113
Tel: (617) 523-0077
Hours: M-Th | 4pm – 10pm
Fr, Sa | 4pm – 11pm
Price Range: $$$$ ($30 – $40 per person)
Overall: Yum

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