Eating out: Mamma’s Ristorante

Mamma's Italian Restaurant - interior

Mamma's Italian Restaurant - interior

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Topping Street, Blackpool. IT had been almost too scary to contemplate just how long I’d been frequenting Mamma’s – since I’m well into my third decade. Speak its name to anyone familiar with the town and you don’t hear a bad word.

It’s part of the urban landscape, the default choice for those looking for reliable fare, hot, quick, good value, nothing too fancy – ideal for a gathering or a quick pizza before the theatre.

Mamma's Italian Restaurant - exterior

Mamma's Italian Restaurant - exterior

I’m not their best customer by a long way but, even though it’s often months between visits, I never fail to get a warm welcome back into the ‘regulars’ fold.

And so it was when I chose a midweek evening to catch up with some friends over a bowl of pasta and a sharing plate or two of their best cheesy garlic bread.

Owner Giuliano is pretty much part of the furniture after over 30 years here and took time out on what was a relatively quiet evening – there was a big TV football match that night – to share a few of the secrets to the success that has kept him and his family on Topping Street since 1980. It can’t be coincidence that it’s a rare occasion he is not on hand here, smiling, organising, overseeing the food and service and, while all food establishments have to deal with the same economic climate, this one keeps on bringing them in as others fall by the wayside.

There’s a lot more competition in the town centre now than there was when he first arrived, but there’s a definite McComfort in knowing what you’re getting here, without the blander corporate feel that usually goes with such reliability.

The menu, says Giuliano, has remained relatively unchanged over the years – people come for their favourite dishes, Mamma’s style – so how could you ever take them off? The garlic mushrooms, the lovely thick minestrone, the main course pizzas, pastas, fish and steaks have all built up their own fan base. The spare ribs here are an institution, with the essential side order of garlic bread – plain or with cheese – to mop up all that rich barbecue sauce. It was a tough call and in the end I failed abysmally to resist – despite my good eye being on the creamy sauce of my intended main spaghetti carbonara probably offering quite enough richness for one evening. My friends also went for pasta mains – a tomatoey chicken on penne at £7.45 and a tortellini a la panna at £8.95. We all shared a couple of garlic breads that came with lashings of gooey mozzarella.

With a couple of drinks from the bar and three coffees to finish, our bill came to £48 exactly – a value tally for a relaxing, unrushed evening out but one that we could, I guess, have cut the cost of even more by sitting down at an early bird time when there are great deals to be had on those pizzas and pastas. Offers too numerous to mention here adorn the frontage, for those looking for a quick bite before a visit to one of the nearby theatres; they are used to those of us who, like I do, tend to rush in with just an hour to spare before curtain up.

It was a pleasant change for me to while away a little longer - and while it’s true this gem doesn’t particularly sparkle from the exterior, its feelgood factor gives it as much of a glow as it ever had.

THE FACTS

Name: Mamma’s Ristorante

Address: 40 Topping Street, Blackpool FY1 3AQ

Phone: (01253) 622345

Opening times: Sunday 5pm til late, Monday to Saturday noon to 2pm then 5pm to late

Parking: Some on street, pay and display close by

Disabled access: Steps at the front

Worth a visit for: A warm welcome and fresh Italian food

One thing I’d change: The black paint on the frontage

Rating: 9.5/10