Review: Mamma Maria’s Grill
6013 Weber Road
Corpus Christi, TX
I love Italian food, it’s easily one of my favorite cuisines. Sadly, especially here in Corpus, actually finding Italian food worth eating, especially at the prices that are charged, is a somewhat difficult task. The bulk of the offerings are chain places, like Olive Garden, that serve up mediocrity with a premium price and subpar service, or local places that are either bad, expensive, or provide an uneven experience based upon whomever may actually be working in the kitchen that night. Because of these issues, I’m always happy to see a new Italian eatery open up locally, especially when it isn’t a chain and when it has a menu that is largely something other than pizza. Not that there’s any thing wrong with pizza. Mamma Maria’s Grill caught my attention one afternoon as I was passing by, mainly because it is the newest restaurant to open in a location that has been a few others, including a CiCi’s Pizza. When I saw it was Italian and Greek, I made plans to go.
At first I had my misgivings about the entire trip. The name, Mamma Maria’s Grill, really sounds like they were trying to play off the popularity of another popular local Italian restaurant, Mamma Mia’s, which seemed a little on the shady side. Once I arrived, however, all fears of a shoddy knock off were put aside. The decor is pretty standard for an Italian place, down to the table cloths, which I don’t care for since they are the cheap kind that slide off the table almost constantly, but for the most part well done. We were greeted and placed at a table right away, our drink order was out almost immediately and complimentary bread with a mixture of olive oil and balsamic vinegar was on our table as well. The bread was good, not great. Pretty much standard for an Italian restaurant. The balsamic vinegar wasn’t my favorite I’ve ever had either, but was serviceable. Our waiter didn’t strike me as all that knowledgeable about the menu, but he was professional, friendly and fast, so the service was what I would consider good. There were three of us, my little girl and one other adult.
For appetizers, we ordered the Calamari Fritti, fried calamari served with the house marinara, and the Creole Honey Mustard Crabcake, a crabcake with a remoulade style sauce on greens. The calamari was lightly battered, seasoned properly and fried perfectly. It was just the right consistency, not too chewy and not underdone. It really didn’t distinguish itself from other properly done fried calamari dishes I’ve had, but it is something that was executed correctly and that I would order again. The house marinara I enjoyed. It was seasoned properly without being over done, and it wasn’t something that I would consider authentic and not so different for the sake of being different that it really wasn’t marinara anymore. Simple and well executed is the perfect description. As for the crabcake, where to begin? First of all, for the price, one crabcake, despite it’s larger than usual size, isn’t enough. For $10.00 there should be two. That having been said, the flavor was very good, although it could have used a touch more salt. The remoulade was seasoned well and tasty. Overall, I was happy with preparation of the crabcake, it was crispy outside without being burnt, and soft and full of crab instead of being mostly filler.
For the entree, I ordered the lobster ravioli in saffron cream sauce with baby spinach, diced tomatoes and lobster meat, and chose the soup to accompany it. The soup was tomato basil, which isn’t my favorite. Actually, I don’t really care for tomato soup as a rule. It’s generally poorly done, badly seasoned and comes out like a poor version of Campbell’s tomato soup from a can. In this instance though, I was pleasantly surprised. The tomato basil soup was fantastic. It was perfectly seasoned, had a wonderful consistency, and was overall just a pleasure. I’d go back just for the tomato basil soup. The lobster ravioli then arrived. It consisted of four decent size ravioli and a generous portion of lobster meat in the saffron cream sauce. The pasta was firm but not underdone, perfectly cooked for my preferences. The filling had a nice amount of lobster and good flavor, but was under seasoned for my personal tastes. With just a bit more salt it would have been perfect. The cream sauce was excellent. It had the perfect sauce consistency and was seasoned perfectly. I enjoyed the subtle use of saffron in it, enough to give it a mild color and flavor it properly without the entire sauce becoming overpowered by the saffron, which can easily happen. It is a sauce that I would love to have again. The baby spinach and tomatoes made a nice addition to the dish, giving it a tad more bulk and adding flavors that played well with the sauce and lobster flavors and balancing out the cream sauce nicely. My little one ordered her stand by favorite at any Italian place, a dish of pasta with sauce on the side. She only eats the pasta.
Finally for dessert I ordered the tiramisu. While not completely inedible, it was truthfully one of the worst tiramisu I’ve ever been served at a restaurant. It wasn’t because of the flavor either. The flavor was actually decent, it was the texture and some errors in execution that really brought it down. The texture of the custard portion of the dessert gave a mouth feel and after taste that is reminiscent of eating cold shortening. It was unpleasant from that stand point. Also the ladyfinger portion of the dessert had only been soaked on the bottom, as if they had been placed in a pan with a little of the coffee mixture traditionally used to soak them in, but not turned to evenly soften them, resulting in a hard texture in the middle of the dessert which was also unpleasant and unexpected. I do realize that there are different preferences and innumerable variations on the tiramisu recipe, but this one did not meet my expectations and I don’t believe it is just a preference issue in light of the very unpleasant and greasy mouth feel issue.
I’ll just come right out and say it, this is currently my favorite local Italian restaurant and I highly recommend it. It also gets the baby seal of approval for having pasta and serving it with the sauce on the side for her. It’s not perfect by any means, but then again I’ve yet to eat at a place that is. There are some minor seasoning issues occasionally, which tend to stand out because of how well done and seasoned most of the food is. They seem to revolve around salt content though, and there is a salt shaker on the table for those that need a bit more, like me. I think the price versus value is a bit off on the crabcake appetizer, but I also found that the lobster ravioli is an absolute bargain and by and large I find there menu to be very reasonable from a price standpoint when compared with other local and chain restaurants. The tomato basil soup is the best tomato soup I’ve had in Corpus Christi, and I loved the saffron cream sauce on the lobster ravioli. I will be going back for both, and will be exploring their menu further in the future. I suggest that you do the same. It is definitely worth your time. Just don’t eat the tiramisu.