I saved the best for last. Mama’s Italian Restaurant was an unexpected (and wholly delicious) find on our August trip to Long Island. Mama’s is out in Oakdale, and if you like Italian at all, it is well worth your time to go out there for a meal (or two, or three)!
I’ve had pizza and a handful of pasta dishes since going gluten free. Some were horrible, some okay, and some pretty darn good. But nothing, and I mean nothing, beats Mama’s. It was so good, that we went back the second night, and all 4 of us ate gluten free!
Teresa and I went with L and E, two friends of ours who live near Oakdale, so I’d specifically hunted down a restaurant in their area that we could all go to for a nice meal.
Their website alone gave me confidence that this was a place I could trust. Specifically, this interview with John, who is the owner of Mama’s. Read it when you can. I wish more chefs had his attitude! The first night, E called ahead to make a reservation and to let them know that we’d need a gluten free menu.
When we got there, we reconfirmed needing one gluten free menu, and we were quickly (and cheerfully) seated. Teresa, L and E were brought pre-dinner bread, and so was I! I don’t have a picture of theirs, but this is what mine looked like:
It was wonderful! I broke off 3 small pieces so everyone else could try. They liked it better than the gluten-full bread.
We discovered mozzarella sticks on the menu, and ordered two plates of them for our appetizer. They were better than any mozzarella sticks I remember! Fresh cheese — and not too stringy, so the entire inside didn’t fall out of the breading when you took a bite. And the marinara sauce was rich and full of flavor!
The first night we went, I enjoyed homemade pasta (ravioli) that was out of this world! It was more than I could eat in one sitting, so I got a box. Anyone who has made (out of a box) GF pasta at home knows that it generally does not reheat well at all. If you can’t finish it the first night – throw it out. Mama’s GF pasta? It was good for several meals. And always tasted just as fresh as the first night. I am inspired to try my hand at making GF pasta from scratch, although I have no doubt that I could never make it on the same par as this.
Even though I didn’t have room to finish my pasta, I had to try dessert! I didn’t know at this point that we’d be back the next night, so I wanted to taste as many things as I could. I chose the Cannoli Cake. This was two layers of rich, chocolate cake, separated by a layer of cannoli cream, and drizzled with a smooth chocolate syrup. It was divine. It also kept well in the fridge and was still very tasty two days later. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm!
As we were leaving, I asked to see the owner. They were afraid I was going to complain, but I was quick to reassure them, and shortly, John came out to meet me. I don’t remember exactly what I told him, but I expressed my sincere gratefulness for the incredible experience he had given me that evening. He told me more about why he offers so many gluten free options, and then told me that if he was there the next time I came, he would make me something special that wasn’t on the menu. I thanked him kindly and told him how glad I was to meet him. At that time, I didn’t expect to enjoy a dinner there until our next NY trip. He also told me that his staff tends to prefer the gluten free over the gluten-full because it is just that good.
The next night, we started out at an overly pricey restaurant called the Dark Horse. They were primarily gluten free, but the menu was too . . .posh. The chairs were cold metal, there was a solo violinist providing live music, the waitress was stiff. The entire place was simply too austere. We left and went back to Mama’s!
Since we were all eating gluten free, everyone got the bread I had received the night before. We got another order of mozzarella sticks, since we’d all enjoyed them. E decided to go with all appetizers, so he could try a number of dishes. In addition to the mozzarella sticks, he ordered the Cold Antipasto (lettuce, tomato, cucumber, marinated vegetables, salami, ham, provolone, fresh mozzarella, and black olives), and Spinach Rice Balls. They were balls of rice stuffed with ricotta and spinach, and came with another dollop of creamy ricotta and some marinara sauce on the plate. I didn’t get a photo of the antipasto, but I do have one of the rice balls. They were very good!
I ordered a salad with my meal, which came out with the appetizers. It was a spinach salad with walnuts and incredibly fresh strawberries, hard boiled egg whites with a touch of mayonnaise, and a delightful raspberry vinaigrette. I generally do not like raspberry vinaigrette, but I could have drank this one — it was that good. While we were enjoying our appetizers and salads, John surprised with fresh garlic bread which he had just made for us, as promised the night before – should I come back. He gave a rich, thick tomato sauce to eat with the bread. Like everything else, this dish was fantastic.
For my entree, I stuck with pasta, but this time I tried the Eggplant Rollatini (eggplant rolled with ricotta and mozzarella cheese). It was really, really, really good. I adore eggplant. L also got an eggplant dish — she went with the Eggplant Parmesan. Like me, she isn’t a big eater, but she ate the entire dish. There just aren’t enough words to convey how delicious these meals were. You must go! Teresa thoroughly enjoyed the Chicken Marsala (chicken breast, cooked in a brown sauce with mushrooms, prosciutto, and onions). I tried a bite and it was the best Chicken Marsala I ever had. So tender. So flavorful.
For dessert, I had my very first Cannoli (shared with T) while T enjoyed a delicious Cappuccino. We all tried the gluten free Cannoli. E told me it was the only gluten free item that he preferred non-GF, but having never had one before, I had nothing with which to compare it. I thought it was decadent. Simply divine.
If you are anywhere near Long Island, Oakdale, NY, you need to go to this restaurant. You will be amazed. You may very well cry tears of joy, whether you’ve just recently gone gluten free or you’ve been doing it for years. If you get to meet John, you will meet one of the nicest, most understanding people you’ve ever met on your gluten free journey.