Monday, April 30, 2012

Mama Ricotta's

Don’t let Mama Ricotta’s appearance fool you. It’s in a strip mall, unassuming, and looks like a quaint restaurant with the usual Italian fare. For dinner though, it’s hard to find a parking place, and people were waiting outside for tables; obviously they’re doing something right. The dim lighting, bustling atmosphere and innovative menu make for a festive, yet family-friendly environment.

Service can totally make or break a restaurant visit. Our server was on her A-game, describing numerous dinner specials, and taking our order from memory. Garlic yeast rolls were promptly brought to the table alongside a lovely, spicy red-pepper infused olive oil. I’ve never had anything like this, and it was a welcome change from the usual herb or balsamic-laced oil.

I was intrigued by the classics of course, but wanted to order something a little different, as per usual. Wild Mushroom Polenta is a dish I will remember for a long time (and tried unsuccessfully to replicate at home.) Seriously, I dream about this bowl of velvety polenta, which had saltiness from goat cheese, creaminess from mascarpone cheese, and meatiness from wild mushrooms, which were coated in Marsala. This is a great Vegetarian option, and I had to resist licking the bowl. One of the best dishes I’ve enjoyed since moving to Charlotte. (*That being said, it was not ready for its close-up. I've chosen to spare you the photo.)

To counteract the lusciousness of the polenta, the Chopped Salad served as a great palate cleanser. Chopped romaine was topped with some of my favorite salad mix-ins: gorgonzola cheese, walnuts, tomatoes, olives, red onions, chickpeas and pepperoncini. Light balsamic dressing enhanced the veggies, and each bite had a fresh flavor and crunch. You know the restaurant is good when something as simple as a salad hits a home run.

Mama Ricotta’s serves their dishes either individual or family-style, though the individual servings are huge. I can’t wait to go back, and if you haven’t been, you need to go immediately. You’ll probably see me there licking the bowl.

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