April may suffer from rain, but it is the most fitting time of year to honor one of my favorite pieces of early-’00s culture: NSYNC’s “It’s Gonna Be Me,” always lovingly said as “It’s Gonna Be May” because of Justin Timberlake’s weird pronunciation.
I felt it necessary to devote this column to honoring the legacy of JT. Through some research, I discovered that his favorite foods are pasta and cereal. I thought it would be a bit memey to critique a bowl of cereal, so I decided to find a traditional Italian restaurant instead. Mamma G’s Ristorante Italiano came up in my searches with glowing reviews.
Ryan and I actually made two trips to Mamma G’s this week. The first was less than pleasant. When we walked up to the hostess, she looked up at us, rolled her eyes, and looked back down, taking quite a while to acknowledge us. When I asked how long the wait for two would be, she said, “Don’t know. Depends how busy the kitchen is,” later telling us that she “wouldn’t have room for us” for almost two hours.
Never mind the rude phrasing. That wait seemed unlikely given there was only one family waiting ahead of us and we could see plenty of open tables. Maybe they were seriously understaffed that night, but either way, this hostess needed an attitude check.
Fortunately we got a much warmer reception on the second trip. Both our waitress and the hostess (different from before) were responsive, kind, and welcoming.
To start, Ryan and I tried Mamma G’s soup of the day: stracciatella, which is pretty much Italian egg drop soup. It was quite oily and didn’t have much flavor. But I liked the texture of the egg, fluffy and silky, and I appreciated the tons of greens mixed in. Our second trip was off to a neutral start.
The entrees redeemed the place. Our waitress told us that the timballo abruzzese was the best thing on the menu, and it lived up to the hype. Timballo is sort of like a lasagna, but instead of pasta and ricotta, it’s layered with crepes, mozzarella, and parmesan. The crepes were buttery, the meat tender, and the cheese rich. It was comforting while also being technically well-executed and intriguing.
Our second entree, the chitarra teramana, also wowed. This dish consisted of spaghetti with mini-meatballs and the same delicious red sauce that coated the timballo. The homemade spaghetti impressed me just as much. It was a perfect texture for pasta — tender yet structured and with a bit of chew. The meatballs had a nice meaty flavor, although a bit more salt or garlic would have helped. But the phenomenal pasta and sauce more than made up for the meatballs.
As much as I adored those entrees, dessert left me wanting. Our waitress, who had a good track record with the timballo, claimed that “Dario’s dessert” was the best dessert. I hope that statement was her personal opinion and not the restaurant’s advertising, because if that is their signature dessert, then I think they’ve neglected that department.
It was 85 percent plain puff pastry. There was a bit of mascarpone cream and some berries, but definitely not enough moisture to support all that dry pastry. The mascarpone was very sugary, the berries were coated in a sweet mixture, and then there was additional sugar sitting on top of the puff pastry. The idea behind this dessert is good, but not too exciting, and it was not so well executed either.
Overall, it’s difficult to say whether Mamma G’s honors JT’s legacy. If I’m investing some money in going out, I’m trying to treat myself and have a nice time, and that first hostess left me in quite a bad mood. I adored the entrees, but the overall Mamma G’s experience wasn’t quite as comforting as their pasta. JT might be better off celebrating May elsewhere.