Mamma’s Brick Oven Pizza & Pasta has moved from its Rosemead Boulevard address in Pasadena into a larger, more modern location in South Pasadena, one four times bigger and featuring an expanded menu and a gamified “drink wall” that makes choosing a beer way more fun than it should be.
The new spot features industrial decor with plenty of room at tables and benches for groups, tons of food and room to move around and refill your drinks without feeling cramped. The New York-style pizza that was the centerpiece of the old menu has not gone anywhere. Joined by some fun new appetizers and starters, the pizza is still the major feature of this fast-casual family favorite.
The self-serve beer wall is a haven for adventurous drinkers and indecisive tasters alike. Over 20 beer, wine and cocktail choices line the rear wall of Mamma’s. The beer wall is powered by keycards that can be loaded to purchase any of the available drinks for a set price per ounce. Instructions for achieving the perfect pour are featured in simple graphics on the wall (disregard at your own embarrassment when you walk back to the table with two inches of foam). Different styles of beer glasses are on the side, so you get to choose whether to fill eight ounces of a pilsner glass or grab a flight paddle and fill up as many tasters as your heart desires. There are about 20 different beers, a few wine choices and two cocktails — a mai tai and a margarita. The wall contains a good mix of popular domestics as well as more eclectic craft beers from local breweries. Understandably, the wine and cocktails cost a little more per ounce than say Coors Light and 805. I loaded up a card with $25 which was just enough for all four adults in my party to explore their tastes at the beer wall.
Mamma’s offers the comfort of a classic, family-friendly, after-a-game pizza joint but punched up with that quintessential flare needed to compete in the Pasadena area. All the classic pizza parlor notes are there: from the large slices of New York-style pizza, the parmesan and pepper shakers, and red sauce pastas, while at the same time boasting a much cooler space than the pizza parlors you used to beg your parents to go to after Little League.
The real kicker though is how reasonably priced the larger family combos are. I had a group of six: four adults and two little ones. The family special ($34.99) came with a large, two topping pizza, 12 garlic knots, a house salad and a choice of two pastas, including baked ziti, spaghetti, manicotti, or penne arrabiata. For less than $40 we had more than enough food for all of us to eat and head home with some leftovers. The salad was pleasantly better than an afterthought, which is sometimes the best that can be said for a side salad. Tossed spring greens, tomatoes and olives are served with your choice of dressings and enough to share.
Garlic knots by the dozen is just the way you want them. Warm, coated in buttery garlic goodness and served fresh from the oven with sauce for dipping, these knots did not disappoint. We did not save any for later. The pasta choices were served in baking dishes, hot and smothered in gooey, bubbling cheese and they offered enough to eat and take some home. The pastas were perfectly cooked al dente, generously stuffed with cheese and bathed in rich, flavorful sauces.
The large pizza is worthy of the title; sometimes a large pizza seems like a joke. This is legitimately 16 inches and eight to 10 slices. New York style, with a thin, crispy crust, the pizza was fresh tasting and served hot from the namesake brick oven. There are plenty of veggie and meat choices for topping your pizza, as well as a handful of gourmet choices for another dollar and some change.
There are a variety of pasta entrees, like the popular fettuccine alfredo, and meat and eggplant options as well. The sauces are slow simmered and have a complexity of flavor not generally found at a casual pizza place.
Mamma’s plays up the traditional a pizza place of yesteryear, keeping with the wide slices and family-friendly aspect but injects some 2019 fun in there with macaroni and cheese, buffalo and barbecued chicken pizzas, and a variety of tasty starters. Signature pizzas are offered by the slice along with rice balls, subs, wings and calzone-type pizza rolls. The vibe is family-friendly or weekend hangout and the choices are fresh, casual, and fun.
I visited Mamma’s in their first week at the new location. The chaos of a soft opening and working out the kinks of a whole new floor layout and increased demand can be hard on businesses at every level. So the level of accountability and professionalism shown by the Mamma’s staff was admirable. The dining room was bustling and customers were popping in and out with orders to go. Service was friendly and fast and all requests were met with a smile and expedient accommodation. Signs on tables explain the restaurant is in its soft opening and encourage customers to email management with any feedback.
I visit a lot of restaurants in their infancy and the commitment and willingness to tackle issues head on truly puts Mamma’s in a category of its own.
A version of this review appeared in our Aug. 29 edition
Mamma’s Brick Oven Pizza & Pasta
1007 Fair Oaks Ave.,
Major Cards Accepted