Mama Mia…what Good Value!

YOU live and learn in this restaurant reviewing lark!


I rarely use Samora Machel Avenue, but doing so a week ago, I discovered Symphony Restaurant was back in business after being shut at least six months. I plan to find out why it closed and re-review it soon.

At one stage it was run by  stunning home-grown but widely globally experienced Kelly Alison, whom I knew had moved back from  Botswana to Taverna Athena, Kensington, and was delighted to find ultra efficiently running Blue@Two Wine Bar, Aberdeen Road a couple of weeks ago, going there to see the mega-talented Middle Age Spread band play.
Because various friends in the hospitality industry were “after” Arnaldo’s Farmhouse Restaurant, I learnt that Priscilla Musoko has left that operation (and also Arabian Nights, Alex Park) and the Graniteside Portuguese speciality outlet had been taken over by the firm running Imba Matomba and Tuskers@Gecko Gardens, both Glen Lorne. This is a combination it will be interesting to see develop.
Due, possibly, to on-going seriously cold weather (Zimbos in the Diaspora will be amazed to hear that last week we had rain…in July…in the Highveld) I have been seriously craving good curry.
Driving to Newlands to slake my addiction at Sitar, I found it now shuts Tuesdays. (As does St Elmo’s at Avondale.)
To the best of my knowledge, under two different managements, Sitar has always opened for lunch and supper seven days a week for perhaps thee decades.
It would have made sense, therefore, to visit nearby Blue Banana/Baobab Grill, where Thai curries are trademark dishes and parked near TM with that in mind, after buying odds-and-sods at the hardware.
But I didn’t get past Mama Mia’s, mainly because young George Kalamatas, running the family eatery currently, and girlfriend, Taryn Attwell, who meets, greets and seats, sweetly, more or less ushered me in. Part of the attraction was the joint was jumping: at least 95% full at 1:41pm; also I had been told all over town that I MUST try their US$10 three course (plus a cola) lunch.
I did…it was tremendous value.
It was the first Italian food I’d eaten since disembarking from the MSC Melody in Italy on May 8. Didn’t I eat great Italian food in Genoa? I was asked. Well no: I was all pasta-ed and garlic-ed out after a three week cruise up the Indian Ocean, Red Sea, Suez Canal and Mediterranean.
In Genoa, I enjoyed superb Cantonese-style seafood and wonderful local lager (twice) in a spotless restaurant/takeaway opposite the docks; fine fish, chips and mushy peas in The English Pub; and a great traditional Full Monty fry-up at Hotel Continental.
Almost two months later I attacked Mama Mia’s always faultless minestrone soup, full of flavour, vegetables and pasta in a meaty, herby broth and slathered in Parmesan cheese, on yet another chilly, grey day, perhaps a little too near the awning-enclosed verandah for total comfort.
The package deal includes any starter, so I could have had nourishing home-made chicken noodle soup, carpaccio, chicken livers, deep-fried haloumi or pollo Tiziana (where is Tiziana…the outlet’s veteran Italian “chef-ess” after whom this eponymous dish is named? It’s chicken fingers with tartar sauce, by the way) or feta fritta with olive balls.
The full a la carte menu is usually available at lunch, but on Tuesday, Newlands was Zesa-zapped and dishes which ideally need grilling were “off”. You could have pan-fried fillet steak, for instance (and it looked great) but not T-bone which should be grilled or griddled.
Personally, I rarely pass tremendous Tuscany pork chops or luscious liver on the standard menu, but was determined to stick to prix-fixe, so the prix-fixe pasta would, hopefully, stick to my ribs.
There was cannelloni, ravioli, lasagna, spaghetti, fettuccini, penne or gnocchi and of those I chose fettuccini carbonara (topped with cream and bacon), which featured a gratifyingly large amount of tasty chopped and cubed fried dead pig in a rich warming creamy sauce which, covered with more Parmesan and fresh ground-at-the-table black pepper, did the business.
Apologies to Jewish and Muslim readers, but there is little more satisfying than the mouthwatering aroma and taste of good bacon, when you are hungry
I THOUGHT the package included any pud from a blackboard list of daily specials so ordered, and indeed had lustily eaten, grand peach Melba, before learning that only the ubiquitous ice-cream and chocolate sauce (or plain ice-cream) should be served in the bundle. No train smash!
I declined a free coke, but had two canned Hansa Pilseners ($2 each). They also have a special on South African wine, at $10 a bottle or $2 the glass, red or white. Recently they installed a WiFi “hot spot” which, paradoxically, they call a Chilli Spot! So I could have taken my laptop and worked between courses. (Believe that and you’ll credit anything!)
There is a small fee for the service, which is available to diners only. We will not face the prospect, as seen at other outlets, of famished folk queuing miserably while full tables are occupied by intense Yuppies and Buppies Googling and Yahoo-ing like billy-oh and nursing a single espresso.

dustym@zimind.co.zw

BY DUSTY MILLER

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