Thursday, March 19, 2015

Feeling Like Family at Mama D's

Mama D's 
3012 Newport Blvd. 
Newport Beach, CA 92663

There's some restaurants that I have to look up to make sure that we haven't been to yet. After eating in 531 different restaurants up to this point, it's easy to forget if I ate at a place before or after starting this blog. This is one of those joints. After a quick glance at the restaurant list that can be found on the right hand side of this page, I now know that we have not visited Mama D's while doing this blog.

I have eaten here when I lived in Newport though. It was one of my buddies favorite places to eat. He would rave about the pink sauce, and we would come here before a great night out in the bars on the peninsula. Pasta is a great way to avoid a hangover. My friend Jimmy was not the only one to rave about Mama D's, it seems like everyone I know, always tells me about a great experience they had at Mama D's on Newport Boulevard.

Before Mam D's took over this spot it was cursed. I swear it was about five restaurants within the span of ten years. Mama D's has definitely broken the curse, since they have been here at least nine years, and have been named one of Yelp's top 100 places in the country to eat at in 2015, coming in at number 59 on the list. They also have a four and a half star rating, with over 2,800 reviews and counting. With all of this praise, I had a feeling we would be having a great night here with our good friends Daniele and Tom.

We arrived here a little before 6pm on a Saturday night, and put our name in. The wait would be about 45 minutes, but they asked us if we wanted a drink, while we waited outside. Katie took them up on an iced tea, while Tom and Daniele ordered a bottle of wine. The staff was also kind enough to bring some bread around about 10 times while we were waiting out in front of the restaurant. They also brought us some meatballs, with a little less frequency. With the combination of the bread, and the wonderful company we were keeping, it seemed like our table was ready in no time.

The inside of the restaurant is definitely beach casual. The dining area is loud, and a little cramped. The menu is pretty basic. There's a build your own pasta section, baked pasta dishes, and entrees that featured veal, chicken or seafood. Our waitress greeted us promptly, and answered all of our questions about the menu. I was pretty hungry, and lucky for us, the food did not take too long to come out. Let's see how everything turned out for us on this night.

Before we get to the quickly arriving entrees, here's a quick shot of the bread that came to the table. Plenty of garlic and seasoning on this, but after having so much outside, almost all of us kind of ignored this bread basket. Still good though.

Since Tom was wearing such a great shirt, and you can see in the background of the first picture, we'll start with his meal. He had the Fatima's Veal Picatta ($23) on this night. This classic veal dish was sauteed in olive oil, then served with capers and a white wine butter-lemon sauce. No complaints from Tom about this meal. He liked the tenderness of the veal, the flavors were spot on, and the vegetables and side of pasta with their famous pink sauce were a great accompaniment.

Tom's much better half, Daniele was a little indecisive when looking at the menu, but finally settled on the Chicken Mama D's ($22). This dish features boneless chicken, red and green peppers, and mushrooms, all in the same white wine, garlic, and butter sauce that came with the chicken picatta. The similarities with Tom's meal did not end there. She also had the side of pasta with the pink sauce, just like Tom, but opted for gnocchi to make a real splash. She loved her dish, and was very pleased that they did not charge extra for the gnocchi. Eating this kept her from obsessing over her Fitbit for ten minutes or so, which we all enjoyed.

Katie had a more unconventional meal here at Mama D's, starting off with this Antipasto Salad ($12). This salad had a whole supermarket produce section in it. Iceberg and romaine lettuce, tomato, carrots, garbanzo beans, cucumbers, olives, pepperoncinis, and plenty of grated Parmesan cheese top this salad, along with more cheese and sliced cold cuts. Katie loved the freshness of the salad, and was surprised at the amount of, and the quality of the meats on here. For some reason she mentioned that she felt this salad would have been bigger for the price, but I thought it was a good enough size for what we paid.

Part two of Katie's meal ended up being these Stuffed Mushrooms ($10). These six mushroom caps were filled with seasoned bread crumbs, herbs, and tiny mushroom pieces. The mushrooms themselves were very tender, with a very good flavor to them. They kind of had a wine taste to them, which was very pleasing. They were pretty good sized, and definitely filled us up. We'd get these again for sure.

Like Daniele, I also had a hard time making my entree choice at Mama D's. I don't have an ultimate, go to meal when eating in an Italian restaurant, so I decided to try one of their two specialty dishes that are listed on the menu. This Sausage and Chicken Capri Fra Diavolo ($22) may not be as photogenic as the other meals, but it was just as tasty. The fra diavolo sauce was good, but not as spicy as I would have liked. The chicken and sausage were both plentiful and tasty. The pasta was fresh, and definitely made in house. I'm not a big fan of hunks of tomato, but my dislike for that was canceled out by the well made sauce. The menu claims that this had buffalo mozzarella in it, but I did not detect too much of it. I should have gotten some extra Parmesan cheese to bring up the cheese quotient. Still a good and filling plate of pasta.

As is the custom at Mama D's, every meal ends with complimentary Chocolate Chips Cookies. These were pretty good. Plenty of chocolate chips, but a little on the heavier side of the cookie spectrum. I like my cookies a little lighter. Still, they were free, and a nice way to end our meal.

We all walked out of Mama D's with a very satisfied feeling. I'm not going to lie to you and tell you that the food here is going to blow you away, but it's good, solid, made from scratch Italian food that will leave you feeling happy that you ate here. To tell you the truth, even though our meals were good, their service might have eclipsed it. From the time we put our name on the list to be seated, to the time that we left, (after closing time), they treated us great, and really made us feel welcomed. This is probably the secret to their success, and the reason for all the praise they get from Yelp. Prices might be a tad too high for the amount of food that you get, but it's quality stuff here, and it is the beach, so rent is higher. Looking forward to coming back again soon, and happy we finally visited Mama D's while doing this blog.

Out of five Seahawks koozies, (because this restaurant will always remind me of my good friend Jimmy, and he was never too far away from his Seattle Seahawks koozie, which almost always had a beer in it), five being best to zero being worst, Mama D's gets 3.5 Seahawks koozies.

For more information about Mama D's, go to their website here:

Mama D's Italy Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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