Mamma's having a baby!
Birth of second pizza palace expected this month
By Erica Wayne 01/05/2012
Ican’t remember when I’ve been this excited. One of our favorite pizza places is having a New Year’s baby, a new store on South Rosemead Boulevard, below Del Mar Boulevard! Not only is this good news generally, since Mamma’s Brick Oven has pizza that almost (but not quite) reaches the Platonic ideal of Casa Bianca in Eagle Rock; the opening of their second eatery brings that ideal to those of us in East Pasadena, whose nearest pizza take-out and delivery options are Domino’s and Pizza Hut.
That’s not to say that Mamma’s in-house business is lacking. Every time we drive to the diminutive South Pasadena pizzeria, almost every table is surrounded by cheery diners feasting on pizza and pasta. And the new place already has curtains on its windows (I drive by several times a week just to check on the progress), indicating that they expect a similar dine-in clientele. Mamma’s doesn’t have a beer and wine license, but they seem to be OK with BYOs. And their dessert selections include tiramisu, gelato, cheesecake and cannoli.
I can’t imagine any of these folks ignoring Mamma’s pizza and ordering something else instead. Mamma’s menu includes a pretty long list of traditional pasta dishes and Italian entrees (all under $11, many under $9). I confess that, in all our visits, we’ve only tried a couple. Mamma’s super “Family Special” ($28.99) includes a large two-topping pizza, house salad (mixed greens, tomato and olives), two generous portions of pasta (spaghetti marinara, baked ziti, penne arabbiata or cheese manicotti) and 12 garlic knots. Both arabbiata and manicotti are satisfying, and the sauces for each are different. It’s a fantastic deal!
But, with all the eating out that we do, we usually prefer pizza in jammies and slippers in front of the TV. Unlike Casa Bianca, Mamma’s delivers but only within a three-mile radius, tantalizingly just out of range; so we’ve been out of luck — but no longer! The new Mamma’s will deliver to our side of town and, should we choose to do the pickup ourselves, it’s only a five-minute ride.
Mamma’s 18-inch extra-large pizza ($14.50 base price) is a thing of beauty. Way too big for the two of us, it brings back nostalgic memories of pizza by the slice that we used to buy as teenagers in Mondawmin Mall in Baltimore (where we were raised) or from street-front windows on visits to New York City. The pie is thin-crust but moist. It’s not quite as thin or moist as a true Neapolitan pizza (for that you can go to the newly-opened Settebello on Colorado and El Molino) and is much, much bigger. Each huge, floppy piece cries out to be folded and eaten by hand.
Instead, we usually buy a 16-inch large ($12.99 base price), which Mamma’s menu indicates will serve three to four people, but which does the two of us just fine. (After all, we’re professional eaters.) And we usually settle on pepperoni and mushroom, each adding an extra cost of $1.65. And here’s the only downside comparatively speaking. Casa Bianca (also 15 minutes away, with no delivery and closed on Sunday, our favorite pizza-eating day) has two toppings I crave: eggplant and anchovies.
Now I know the absence of anchovies won’t break most of your hearts; a love of salty, oily, fishy “bait” as my husband likes to term them, is probably about as prevalent as being left-handed — about 10 percent. (But, take note, three of our four latest presidents and I are left-handed, so it may be on the rise.) But small snippets of eggplant, lightly crumbed, are a different matter. Even folks who eschew the vegetable in all other forms will, more likely than not, surrender to this exquisite preparation.
And then there are the olives; any good Italian pizza with olives in Italy will have the small “nicoise” style olives, salt-cured and, usually, whole — with pits. Both Mamma’s and Casa Bianca seem to think that we Americans prefer the kind of meaty but tasteless pitted olives that most kids used to put on their fingers like puppets when adults weren’t looking. However, Casa Bianca does have green olives with spice and salt. Mamma’s doesn’t.
But all of this fades to insignificance when balanced against a long ride and the concomitant room-temperature pizza. Having a real New York-style pizzeria almost within walking distance is worth almost any topping deficiencies, and these are relatively minor. The crust at Mamma’s is perfection, their ingredients are top-quality, and as long as that remains constant, we’ll be visiting their new Rosemead location every Sunday for our New York-style pizza fix.
Mamma’s Brick Oven Pizza & Pasta
710 Fair Oaks Ave., South Pasadena (626) 799-1344
311 S. Rosemead Blvd., (Opening the end of January)