I was amongst friends – sipping wine, eating fine cuts of meats, gorging on delicate slices of cheese when the subject of dinner came up. I wanted to know what they considered the “best Italian” in Orange County. I didn’t want a chain or anything too fancy but real authentic Italian. I wanted to feel like I was inside someone’s home and not in a restaurant. I saw the light bulbs going off and then they all exclaimed “you need to go to Mama D’s!”
Mama D’s is on the outskirts of Newport Beach before entering Balboa Island. On that first visit, a busy Saturday night, it was hard for us to find street parking. There’s options to pay but if you’re patient enough or willing to circle the block a few times, a spot usually opens but it requires walking which is good because you’ll need the exercise after your meal.
When we pulled up, the wait was long. People were seated outside with blankets and staff was on hand serving up drinks, warm garlic bread, and juicy chicken meatballs in a decadent meat sauce. I instantly felt at home. Italians love to feed you, keep you company, and keep you entertained. Despite the line, the wait went fast. There was a magician to keep us laughing and the staff was accommodating. The food kept rolling out and we had to beg them to stop feeding us so that we could eat our real meal inside once seated.
The interior is tiny. Tables everywhere and a busy bumbling happy staff. On the first visit, our waiter Michael was gracious enough to take the time to explain the menu, how it worked, and the special of the day. That night we went with the special – a cheese tortellini with spinach, mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes, and spinach in a gorgonzola sauce. Since we both had different tastes – he likes red sauce and I like white this was a happy medium. The blend of ingredients worked well and I was surprised that the sauce wasn’t too heavy. The dinner portion was enough to split for two especially since we had already feasted on enough bread and meatballs while waiting outside.
On the second visit, we decided to try the menu and mix match our entree. I was dying to try their signature pink sauce and we picked the sorrento with mushrooms, spinach, garlic, and tomatoes and added sausage. One bite and I understood why people rave about it. We took half of our portion home and I was able to enjoy it the next day for dinner – still as good and left me craving more.
The main reason why I love Mama D’s so much, and why I’ll keep coming back, is because it feels like home. It doesn’t feel like a restaurant. The interior has the comfort of a living room and the staff treats you like a close family member. All that aside, the food is wonderful too. As if it’s prepared in a real Italian kitchen and that’s exactly what I wanted and got.
Sadly, I only got one photo of my visit. I know. How could I? Shame on me. I hope the one photo is enough to entice you, hope my words will guide you, and I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. Until next time, veni, vidi, edi.