The North End in Boston is the city's oldest residential neighborhood, and unlike other parts of the city, still feels like a neighborhood right out of Italy. Narrow cobbled streets are lined with small Italian shops, quaint cafes, and fantastic Italian restaurants.
I never tire of coming to the North End. I love the windy, uneven roads filled with little markets, pasta shops, pizzerias, and restaurants. I love how it's so walkable - smack in the middle of the city within walking distance of Fanueil Hall, Chinatown, and Downtown.
One of the timeless, classic restaurants that I have always wanted to try is Mamma Maria. The restaurant is situated in a restored 19th century brick townhouse with multiple levels and private dining rooms. The atmosphere is intimate, the service is excellent, and the food is exquisite.
Why has it taken me so long to come here? Well, two reasons. One - if you try to just walk up to the restaurant and request a table (especially on a weekend), you'll most likely be turned away because they will already be booked for the night. Reservations are a must. Two, I had heard that it was quite expensive compared to other North End restaurants.
(Fresh black mission figs, baked with Gorgonzola and Parma prosciutto) $14
Well this week I finally bit the bullet and made a reservation to come here to celebrate Bryan's birthday. The verdict? The chefs at Mamma Maria definitely are skilled cooks, and everything was expertly executed. The baked figs & prosciutto appetizer was great - the sweetness of the figs, the saltiness of the proscuitto, and the strong flavor of the Gorgonzola all balanced each other out nicely.
I thought the pasta dishes were outstanding. All pasta is fresh and homemade. The butternut squash ravioli had just the perfect sweetness with the brown butter sauce. These ravioli pieces are big - fork & knife big. You get two pieces in this appetizer dish, but that is actually plenty.
(Hand rolled lobster ravioli with sauteed Chanterelle mushrooms and grilled asparagus) $30
Likewise, the lobster ravioli was incredible. The ravioli itself was filled with chunky pieces of fresh lobster and finely minced celery. It had a rich lobster essence without feeling heavy at all. Likewise, the asparagus and sauteed mushrooms were also really really delicious. The sauce in which they were sauteed was reminiscent of butter and lobster broth - so good. Really really good. I was very happy.
When we asked the waiter what he liked, he immediate said, "my favorite is the osso buco." This bone-in piece of veal is stewed over low heat for 5 hours. The resulting meat is fall-off-the-bone tender, really almost melts in the mouth. The flavor is excellent, and the presentation is dramatic! It sits over a classic saffron risotto. Bryan thought this dish was very good as well.
Over all, Mamma Maria is an excellent restaurant. Their chefs definitely know what they are doing and can execute excellent dishes. The downside? The menu is not very large, and it's a bit pricey. Even though we really enjoyed our meal there, in the end we both agreed that our favorite restaurant in the North End is still Prezza. Being pasta lovers, we were a bit sad that there were only a few pasta choices on this menu. Nevertheless, this is still an excellent restaurant and definitely worth trying. You can be pretty sure that you'll get good service, great ambiance, and excellent food.
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