Thursday, September 2, 2010

Family Affair at Mama Cozza's

Mama Cozza's
2170 W. Ball Road
Anaheim, Ca. 92804

Orange county can now boast another place that is featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and that place is Mama Cozza's in Anaheim. I wanted to beat the rush up here, before the show aired, and try this place out for myself. So, I treked myself up the five freeway, on a Wednesday during rush hour, and met my family at this 45 year old eatery.

Mama Cozza's is named after owner, Frank Cozza's mother. Frank worked for the Anaheim police department in the sixties, but left after he bought this place on Ball Road. More than four decades later, he still owns the place, and comes around to every table to see how everything is going. He now has his large family help him out in the restaurant, and they are working on their third generation helping out here.

Mama Cozza's is off by itself in a dilapidated strip mall. Once inside, the restaurant is like every Italian restaurant stereotype. From the red and white checkered table cloths, to the dry bread sticks that are on the tables. There are many pictures on the walls of celebrities that have eaten here, and of assorted family members. This joint is reminiscent of Italian restaurants of yesteryear, before everything became so corporate. Enough talk, let's get to the food.

Here are the aforementioned bread sticks and the vegetable tray that is placed on every table. It had been a long time since I had been to a restaurant that had breadsticks on the table. Everyone was raving about the pickles, it wasn't until later when we learned from a waitress, that they were just Claussen pickles.

To start our meal we ordered the Appetizer Combo Plate, or as I call it, the fried food extravaganza. This had fried zucchini, fried ravioli, fried jalapeno ravioli, fried mozzarella, and shrimp cocktail. Not sure why they did not just fry the shrimp while they were at it. I thought that this platter was just okay. I was not to fond of the breading, and thought that it was real heavy, and you could not taste the items underneath. The only stand out here was the fried cheese, which is pictured above. This did not have breading, but was encased by bread, kind of like a dinner roll, with cheese inside. It was good but heavy.

With every entree at Mama Cozza's you receive both soup and salad. It is like a double bonus! Sorry about some of these pictures, I had to take them quick because I knew that my family was hungry, and the lighting was not too good. The first soup was the French Onion. Jarrod and my Dad got this, and were not wowed by it. I tried it and thought that it was too salty for me. Lots of cheese in it though. The clear favorite of the two soups was the Meatball Soup. This had a real nice smooth vegetable soup taste, and the meatballs complimented it perfectly. I liked the taste of the meatballs, and I got at least four in my small cup of soup.

Now it is time for the dinner salad. The food just kept on rolling at this point. For choice of salad, you could choose either Caesar or dinner salad. We all got the dinner salad. This was a good sized salad for being included with the meal. It had greens, croutons, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, and cheese. I am sure I missed something, but our dinners came out real quick after the salads, so I did not have much time to finish it up.

This is Kristin and Jarrod's split order of Mostaccioli Fettuccini with Chicken added. Both Kristin and Jarrod found this to be plain tasting, but then spiced it up with some red pepper flakes and Parmesan cheese, and liked it much better. I found the sauce to be as heavy as I have ever had. It was good, but man I could not have finished this plate. The chicken was surprisingly moist, and flavored well. I am always surprised when chicken tastes good in restaurants, because a lot of times it is too dry. Mama Cozza's got it right.

I chose for myself the Combo Plate. This three item combo included lasagna, mostaccioli, and cheese ravioli., all topped with Mama's sauce. The Mama sauce seemed to me to be a more smooth than a marinara sauce, maybe a little less acidy. I never did ask what the difference was between the two. This plate was okay, but was made better when I added Parmesan and pepper flakes to it. The lasagna could of had a little more meat in it for my taste. I had this for leftovers, and it tasted better the next day.

Here is Katie's Shrimp Fresca. This was shrimp simmered in a garlic, tomato, and basil sauce, served over linguine. I tried this dish and thought that it was very flavorful, and the shrimp was cooked perfectly, and had big flavor when you bit into one. Katie felt the same way about this dish, she liked that the sauce was light, but still big on flavor.

Again, sorry for the poor quality on this picture. My Dad was at the end of the table, so it was more difficult for me to photograph his food, the Cannelloni. Pasta crapes, filled with veal, beef, and spinach, topped with mama sauce and mozzarella. This was my favorite item of the night. Very good complete dish, and it had a wide variety of items in it. It also came with a side of spaghetti, that did not even get touched during the meal.

Lastly, my Mom, Gracie and Lillie all shared a Medium Pepperoni Pizza. What's that you say, one piece of pepperoni? No, they put their toppings on, and then the cheese goes on top. This pizza was loaded with pepperoni, but it is all below the surface laying in wait, for your taste buds to attack. Okay, sorry I got off on a tangent there. Anyways, this pizza was pretty darn good, and was cooked just right. I only ate one bite, but it was full of pepperoni, and the cheese was good as well. Some of the best pizza I have had recently.

All of the dinners include a complimentary Anisette, and oranges. Anisette tastes like black licorice, which I am not a fan of, but I am not going to pass up free alcohol. I really liked this touch.

Mama Cozza's makes you feel like family. I am not going to tell you that this was the best Italian food I have ever had. It was not. But the service that we had, was some of the best we have had in a long while, even with my squirmy niece Lillie. The owner Frank, even came over and made sure that the girls got ice cream. The waitress then took Lillie into the kitchen to tell the cook that she liked her pizza. That is the kind of thing that just doesn't happen anymore at the chain spots.

I will come back here again. I think I need to try some of the things that Guy Fieri tried when he was here. He ordered the Linguine Domery, Chicken Pisano, and the Mama's Special Pizza. I am told that the linguine is his favorite and he has been back three times since to have it. I will wait until the crowds die down a little, but we will be back. Like they say on their web site, you will not leave this place hungry. These are huge portions of food. They must have really inspired family pride, because my Dad even picked up the tab for dinner. Thanks Pop!

Out of five mussels, (I learned that cozza means mussel in Italian), five being best to zero being worst, Mama Cozza's gets three mussels.

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  1. Excellent write up, Mike. That was a great place and as you said, none of us went away hungry.
    Just a word on the prices, "reasonable". When I saw the bill for 8 of us [well, 7½ considering Lillie], that's when I decided to pick up the check.
    You're welcome, Mike... let's find more places where you get the 'most bang for your buck.'

  2. Hope everyone is doing well! Never heard of this place but looks good. Hopefully we will get together to go to Zips soon! Jerry the usher said he was having trouble with his kidneys last time we were at the ballpark but as he would say "See You Tomorrow!"