Posted on May 8, 2013 | 3 comments
Shortly after moving to Charlotte, I fell in love with Mama Ricotta’s. I blame it on the goat cheese and mascarpone dip, which was my first bite of food on my very first visit to Mama’s.
Mama’s is the type of place where families feel equally comfortable as couples on hot dates. The dining room is cozy with large family-sized booths plus intimate tables for two, vintage family photos, and a large wood-fired pizza oven.
If you have any Italian friends or family, you know the importance of sharing food in the Italian culture. Food is love. This holds true at Mama’s, where most of the pasta dishes are available family-style and are served in deep dishes that are passed around the table, just like at home.
It didn’t take long for me to realize Mama Ricotta’s had common ownership with Bad Daddy’s (one of my favorite burger spots in town) and Midwood Smokehouse (my favorite barbecue joint). I’ve eaten at these restaurants dozen of times, and many of those meals have ended with toasts to Frank Scibelli, the owner and man behind the amazing food.
I’m a big fan of bread, and Mama Ricotta’s bread basket alone is worth a visit. The housemade rolls are served with olive oil sprinkled with crushed red pepper flakes for dipping. As for appetizers, there’s that amazing dip I mentioned–it’s a warm goat cheese and mascarpone dip served with grilled crostini and a warm tomato basil sauce, a steal at $8.50. I also highly recommend the new house made burrata ($12). Burrata is fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream, and Mama’s burrata is soft and supple and accompanied by olive oil poached tomatoes, basil, roasted garlic, and grilled ciabatta.
The menu features several salads, my favorites being Mama’s Salad (romaine, marinated artichokes, roasted red peppers, and vine-ripened tomatoes with a light, sweet Italian) and the Chopped Salad (romaine, gorgonzola, walnuts, Roma tomatoes, Gaeta olives, red onion, pepperoncini, garbanzo beans, and carrots tossed in a light Balsamic vinaigrette dressing).
Mama’s specializes in “New Haven style” pizza. The pizza is cooked in a wood-burning oven, which results in a crust that’s thin with a crispy shell and chewy interior. The Joe’s Favorite Pizza with pepperoni and house made pork sausage is a popular choice, and I found it deliciously salty. Medium 9″ specialty pizzas are $11.50, and Large 14″ specialty pizzas are $17.75.
Some of my favorite pasta dishes are the penne alla vodka, standard angel hair with tomato basil, and the penne, broccoli, and chicken. There’s also southern-Italian-style lasagna and a new spaghetti dish with turkey prosciutto meatballs, both which I’ve yet to try (but plan on eating SOON). You can add chicken, shrimp, or salmon to any pasta dish, and these options are available in individual or family-sized portions, which means the whole gang doesn’t have to agree!
In addition to the pastas, there are nearly a dozen entrees on the menu, including veal, salmon roasted in the wood-fire oven, and several chicken dishes. Of those I’ve tried, one of my favorites is the pollo bianco, an Italian spin on chicken cordon bleu, with thinly sliced chicken layered with prosciutto and mozzarella. I’ve also heard good things about the new Shrimp & Crab Risotto. My to-try list sure is getting long here…
Entrees are served a la carte, and sides are available in individual or family-sized portions. Favorites include the garlic mashed potatoes and the broccolini with chopped tomato and garlic.
The lunch menu features many of the same items as the dinner menu, with the addition of several sandwiches. I recently met owner Frank Scibelli(!) for lunch at Mama’s, and we both had the new Italian pork and broccolini sandwich ($9). The sandwich consists of overnight roasted pork with sharp provolone and delicious, slightly bitter, sautéed broccolini on crusty Italian bread. Also on the sandwich menu are the chicken parmesan sub, four-meat Italian grinder, and a Venetian chicken salad with grapes and walnuts. Sandwiches are $7-$9 and come with a side—another great deal.
No matter how tight your pants feel after your meal, you must have dessert! Mama’s Nutella Pie is notorious (and very rich). One of my favorites is the apple crisp. Served in a white ramekin, just like mom would use, the crisp is topped with a small dollop of house spun cinnamon gelato, caramel sauce, and a few ginger snap cookies that dissolve into a decadent porridge in the hot apple juices. Another of my favorites is the ciabatta bread pudding. It’s made using Frank’s own recipe and is served with housemade vanilla gelato and dulce de leche.
It’s not often you can visit a restaurant dozens of times and still have a dozen menu items on your want-to-try list. That’s what makes Mama’s one of my favorite restaurants: the food is consistently good, and there’s always something new to try.
Mama Ricotta’s is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.