Dreaming of Italy

Every once in a while, you’ll encounter a restaurant with cuisine so sublime that you’re torn between slowly savoring every bite and flavor or forgetting all rules of etiquette and ravenously stuffing food into your mouth like it’s nobody’s business. Mama Mia’s is one of these places. But, as a Foodie, I unfortunately had to forgo the latter option.

Tucked away in an older part of McAllen, this pizzeria is a picture-perfect depiction of Italian themes: romance and family. The venue’s cozy, dim lighting set about an air of relaxation and the fragrant aromas of traditional Italian cuisine made my tummy grumble in anticipation.

My date and I were greeted by an enthusiastic waitress that was all smiles and giggles. We were promptly taken to a booth and encouraged to order their famous sangria.  How could I turn that offer down? It was all uphill from there. My sangria was light and sweet, fused with flavors of apple slices and tangerine. My date’s freshly-squeezed lemonade, served in a monster-sized cup, was equally as refreshing. Our appetizer, ordered per our waitress’s recommendation, was Fried Olives A La Verde, essentially breaded giant olives stuffed with ricotta cheese and an Italian herb mixture. She described them as, and I quote, “an explosion in your mouth”. I’m trying to think of a better way to describe the flavor of this appetizer, but “an explosion in your mouth” sums it up pretty well. We were hesitant to order them at first as my date abhors olives. But, I talked him into sampling one with me, and the “mmm” that ensued said it all.

A few minutes later, we were served with a still sizzling Chicken Ala Florentina Pizza and the House Special Lasagna. These two dishes are pure culinary genius. I almost felt guilty for eating all of that bread, but another bite of pizza made that thought disappear like a fading echo in the wind. The pizza was perfectly crisp, topped with Alfredo sauce, chicken, fresh tomatoes, spinach, and red onions. The white sauce was surprisingly pleasant and had me wondering why traditional pizza wasn’t always made with Alfredo. The lasagna was freshly baked, stuffed with mushrooms, chopped black olives, a blend of cheeses, and was swimming in a bath of Mama’s homemade meat sauce. Any Italian restaurant can prepare decent lasagna, but few can make it to perfection. Alas, my date and I couldn’t decide which entree was better. I ate with a slice of pizza in one hand and a forkful of lasagna in the other. I really couldn’t get enough of this stuff.

Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed every dish that was brought to our table. Mama Mia Pizzeria is a true gem of McAllen. With an extensive menu that caters to a variety of plates, this place is great for family night, date night, and everything in between. I’m almost tempted to make it through their entire menu, little by little, of course.

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JoAnn is a graduate of the University of Texas-Pan American where she obtained a Bachelor’s in Mass Communication with a minor in English. She is an inquisitive, ambitious and lively person with an undeniable passion for the written word.