What I Ordered
Review By: Alex Dukhovny –
If you were to ask me to write a review for Mamma a week ago, I would have given it two thumbs up and very, very high praises. You see, this restaurant, up until a few days ago, was my absolute favorite Italian place in Los Angeles. Not just for the food, but for the story, the service, the ambiance and everything else in between. I have been a fan of this place since its humble beginnings as La Buca and was very excited when Mamma herself reopened her doors. I have visited this restaurant many, many times and always recommended it, well up until now. Now I feel just like little Travis in Old Yeller having have to take this dog out back and shoot it myself.
On a recent visit to Mamma we were seated in the outside dining area as requested. The place was not too busy and our waiter appeared promptly. Now I feel like the waiter himself deserves a separate review, but let me just say that this guy, who shall remain nameless, was a complete joke. More on this later.
Upon quickly browsing through the wine list, we asked to taste two separate wines which were offered by the glass. While the waiter was gone we received our waters, which tasted like dish washing liquid. When he returned with the wines, the glasses had a full pour. We decided to keep the wines, since the truth was there was not a better option.
Not being too hungry we ordered Fried Calamari, not the Frittura Mista from their redesigned menu, but just the calamari and Crostini di Burrata which the menu describes as burrata crostini with black truffle and Parma prosciutto. This will be important later. I also asked for bread and tomato sauce.
The bread arrived fairly quickly, but unfortunately was stale. In some parts more than others. Speaking of stale, unbeknownst to my guest I was slowly being devoured by ants which came from the flower pot placed right next to me. I get that this is an outside area, but this is ridiculous. I came here to have a meal, not to be the meal.
When the Calamari and the Crostini arrived to the table they looked quite appetizing. The calamari were light, golden color with an alluring aroma, but upon tasting them, or rather just picking one up with a fork, I knew that they were grossly overcooked. Rubbery, rubbery, rubbery is the only way to describe them. Crisp on the outside shoe leather on the inside. I wanted to immediately send them back and when I notified the waiter he argued with me stating that they look under coked to him. Of course I was very polite and offered him a bite which he refused. After a little bit of back and forth we actually decided to leave them for the time being and concentrate on the crostinis.
The Burrata was decent, the bread was crisp, the prosciutto was fresh, but the so called truffle was just bits of undesirable black substance in truffle oil. Which as far as I’m concerned should be illegal. The oil overpowers everything and perfumes the cheese as well as the bread taking away any natural flavors and sweetness that it should have. Alas, this ended up being the best dish of the night.
While we were concentrating on the crostinis the calamari only got worse. They cooled and thus got more rubbery and awful. Upon our waiter’s arrival to the table we asked to take them away and replace the dish with a different one. The dish of choice? Polipolata, grilled Mediterranean octopus, fresh celery, lemon, extra virgin olive oil and potatoes. This is where our high school drama actor of a server decided to be nothing short of a smart ass and asked how I would like the octopus prepared. Being a tad stunned by the questions, I told him just like the chef likes it. He pressed on with a smirk on his face asking if it should be rare or well done; and continued asking me how I wanted it cooked since I did not appreciate the calamari. So I decided to tell him step by step. Take the octopus, clean it, pressure cook it, remove it, grill it and serve it to me so it melts in my mouth. He was not amused, but left saying that he will put in the order.
Several minutes later we received this embarrassment of a dish. The octopus was cooked okay, but had no flavor besides being charred to hell. There is a fine line between charring something for flavor and burning it to ashes. The pile of cut up octopus was mixed with bland, bland, bland potatoes and sat atop of thinly sliced under ripen tomatoes and and thin half moons of celery. Everything lacked seasoning, but the coup de gras was little bits and pieces of shell which almost caused a chipped tooth. Let me make this clear, it wasn’t one tiny piece of shell, the whole dish was studded with shell – purposely? Who knows?
A few minutes before the shell discovery, our waiter completely snubbed me for a glass of wine asking only my guest for one and not me thus showing his piss poor attitude yet again. After another piece of shell, I took the plate with the shell pieces, the plate with the remaining dish and carried it inside, handed it over to him and asked for another glass of wine as well as the manager – immediately.
A few minutes later I received my glass of wine and was told that the manager is on her way. The manager happened to be the daughter of the namesake Mamma who seemed quite concerned with the aforementioned tale. I made it specifically known that this type of experience is very hurtful to me due to the prior meals I have had here and all the praises I have sung for this place. Her response was simple and quite appropriate, “I’ll take care of you.” She was apologetic and understating, perhaps even a tad embarrassed – or so it seemed.
With our table cleared and a little bit of wine left, it is needless to say that our waiter had not returned, but the manager did come back with a complimentary panna cotta atop of what was insinuated to be a complimentary dinner. As far as the panna cotta goes, it was a tad too sweet and dense, but it was a good gesture. Shortly after she came back again and bestowed upon me a bill for $70. I was a tad stunned and really wanted to call her out on a previous promise, but realized that starting another argument was not worth the money. We paid. We left no tip. We will most likely never return.
Because I have had meals from Osteria Mamma in its heyday, I cannot for the life of me understand what happened. I guess just like how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop the world will never know.