“ 40 Topping St / Blackpool / Lancashire / FY1 3AQ / Tel: 01253 622345. „
There are lots of things I think a good restaurant should be: it should have a nice atmosphere, provided a good menu selection, have waiting staff who are able to recommend dishes and accompaniments, have prices that reflect value for money. For me, though, I think the most important feature is that it should make me want to go back there again and again. And again.
Mamma's Ristorante in Blackpool is the big sibling of Mamma's Too in St Annes, an Italian restaurant a few miles down the road where I ate regularly as a kid. We went back to Mamma's Too repeatedly for all the reasons mentioned above, so my hopes were high for my first meal at the original Mamma's.
Blackpool has fewer 'nice' parts of town than some other cities, so though there are numerous decent restaurants, a great many of these are in less than salubrious environments. Mamma's is down a slightly tatty road behind the main market and near the bus station, and has a rather unassuming shop frontage wedged in between a greasy caff and a strip joint.
Inside the restaurant is much nicer and has tables on two levels though generally only the ground floor will be open unless it's a special occasion and they have a party booking. The place is cosy (and for cosy think slightly cramped but with a rustic Italian charm), with a strong colour scheme to match the Italian flag and a well-loved collection of Chianti bottles. The walls are adorned with photos of the Mamma's football team and of photos of the historical landmarks of Italy - all places you can recognise as being Italian even if you can't differentiate the Venetian ones from the Roman few.
The menus at Mamma's are good, solid, standard Italian food - the pizzas, the pastas, the meat and fish, the anti-pasti and puddings you would expect from this style of restaurant. Although there are some more modern and 'funky' items on the menu, post are normal, expected favourites that have been well established for many years. All food is, naturally, cooked to order. The sauces therefore be combined with any pasta shape, for example, and other special requests can be easily handled. Portions are generous for the main courses, though the garlic breads have shrunk significantly since I was young, and now only just feed 2, not easily feeding the 3 or 4 they once did. The food itself is some of the best Italian I have ever had, though we've only ever sampled the vegetarian menu items, and therefore I cannot vouch for the hunks of meat some of you may favour.
The Mamma's duo are known for their cheap offers - back when I was little it was 'any pizza for £1', 'pasta for £2.50', things like that. Nowadays the offers continue, albeit with slightly inflated prices. Happy Hour is 5.30pm - 7pm at the Blackpool branch, and sees any pizza or pasta from the main menu half the usual price, meaning they're about £3 - £4 each.
A pre-theatre dinner for 2 came in at £16 on our last visit and included:
1 x garlic bread
2 x pasta
2 x soft drinks
1 x pudding
1 x coffee
We were stuffed afterwards, but in a good way, and had spent well over an hour enjoying our meal without being rushed, leaving only because the show was about to start. It's gourmet food at almost fast food prices with excellent service - something very few other restaurants could achieve.
For me although the food is delicious and the prices a bargain, it's the little things that stand Mamma's out from the rest of the crowd:
They have little (fresh!) parmesan pots on the tables - meaning you can add a bit, have a few mouthfuls and then add a bit more.
The toilets are adorned with interesting 'art' - namely naked photos of the opposite sex. This is the same as at Mamma's Too, and was the source of much amusement when we had birthday parties there in junior school.
The staff are properly Italian - one family runs both restaurants, and all waiters and chefs and barmen seem to be some relation or other. In Heidelberg I used to eat at an Italian that was run by Turks, and it just seemed wrong somehow. Here, on the other hand, this is not a problem.
It's all these reasons combined that make me want to return again and again, favouring the known and well-liked from all the unknown and slightly uncertain the town also offers.
40 Topping St,
Tel: 01253 622345