Photos and Words by Samantha Mellman
When my parents came for a visit last weekend, they asked their hotel concierge for a recommendation on the best place to eat authentic Italian food in Boston. So we dined at Mama Maria’s restaurant, located at 3 North Square and just a stone’s throw away from Paul Revere’s house on the North End. The restaurant’s facade may be just as quaint and historic as the other buildings over on Hanover Street, but Mama Maria looks like a 19th century home on the inside as well.
Upon entering the restaurant, you are greeted by the hostess in a small corner to the immediate left. There is only one way to go from there: directly up a staircase that was naturally crooked from the effects of aging. The restaurant was established 40 years ago, but the interior looks like it hasn’t changed for 150. We were seated in the first of five dimly-lit dining rooms at Mama Maria. Fellow diners were both young and old and a mix of families, friends and dates.
The two-paged menu had less than 25 appetizer and main course options from which to choose, but each selection had something unique to offer. Do not come to Mama Maria expecting to eat pizza or chicken parmaigiana; the dishes are inspired by traditional Italian ingredients but executed with an inventive, modern flair. Our waiter explained to us a number of specials of the night, and we understood that the items under Antipasti could be served as a dinner portion as well. Appetizers range from fresh salads to heartier pasta dishes enhanced with meats and seafood. They also have an extensive list of wines ranging from all corners of Italy.
I decide what to order, but both my parents and I finally chose the halibut for our entrées. Other plates that stuck out to me were the Lobster Pasta, Lamb Gnocchi, or the oven-braised whole spring chicken with baby Brussels sprouts, Myer lemon, green olives and black lentils. Dishes at Mama Maria range from about $15 to $40.
While we waited for our dinners to be prepared, I was distracted by the eclectic décor of the dining room. There were two decorative candelabras hanging from the ceiling and kitschy plates tacked to the walls (one of which has fake sunny side eggs glued to it).
Finally, I was pleased to find that the halibut was perfectly pan-seared and served with chanterelle mushrooms, salsa verde, and creamy parsnips. Only a fork was required to slice through the delicate filet, which was not overwhelmingly fishy. My father said it was the best he’s ever had. Not being a fan of mint flavor, I was less enthused by the mushrooms and creamy parsnips, but overall, the dish was a successful one. Unfortunately, we did not order dessert with Mike’s or Modern Pastry within a three-minute walking distance of the restaurant.
Although I have only tried a handful of restaurants on the North End, I can say that there are still many dishes at Mama Maria on my must-try list. I recommend Mama Maria for an authentic dining experience that not only can make the ideal date but also provides a memorable meal to share with family or friends any day of the week.
Address: 3 N Square, Boston, MA Phone: (617) 523-0077 Website: http://www.mammamaria.com Hours: Monday-Thursday: 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday: 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. Sunday: 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.