Restaurant review: Ho-hum Italian fare at Mamma's Cucina

I try to be a positive person, to search out the best in each situation. Mamma's Cucina, a Hampden restaurant that serves Italian fare, makes that a challenge. Nothing there is remarkably bad, but neither is it exceptional. It is mostly in the middle.

The restaurant's location, in a distant corner of the Greenspring Tower Shopping Center off 41st Street, is not that winning. But it does have a lot of parking.

The interior of the restaurant is off-putting, stuck between a cafeteria and a sit-down restaurant. There is a cafeteria-style serving line at one end of the restaurant. The daily specials are displayed on a white board that hangs over the cafeteria line. Booths line both sides of the dining area, with tables and chairs filling the middle. Most seats offer a view of the kitchen.

The night our party of four was there, I watched kitchen workers prepare carryout orders. Pizza seemed to be popular.

The service, which consisted of one waitress working the restaurant, was spotty. Things started well, but after our food arrived, the waitress forgot about us. She also forget about a salad we had ordered.

As for the food, the portions were large, the flavors average and the prices nothing to rave about.

The gourmet 14-inch pizza ($13.99) was a standard rendition, consisting of a thin crust with slices of pepperoni, bits of mushrooms covered with mozzarella cheese. It was adequate, but a long way from gourmet.

The best of our entrees was the veal Marsala, several large pieces of breaded veal served with a mushroom and Marsala wine sauce. The veal was tender and had a pleasant, salty tang. But at $16.99, it wasn't a steal.

The shrimp scampi ($14.99) featured a bowl stuffed with linguini in a light cream sauce and dotted with a few shrimp. It was nothing distinctive.

The chicken Alfredo ($12.99) had plenty of chicken, but the breast meat came in large slices — not the chunks promised on the menu. The Parmesan cream sauce was plentiful but not flavorful.

One of the dinner specials ($13.99) was combination of lasagna and cheese-filled pasta. The dish was cheesy and hot, but it lacked zing.

The selection of beers was functional. I picked an Italian, Peroni ($4.49 a bottle), which went well with the food. My wife had a glass of the house chardonnay ($6).

For dessert we sampled a cannoli ($3.39). Like most of the other offerings, it was not offensive — just not distinguished.

Mamma's Cucina Restaurant

Where: 1020 W. 41st St., Hampden

Contact: 410-366-0020 or

Open: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-9 p.m Sunday

Credit Cards: All Major

Appetizers: $6.49-$8.99

Entrees: $8.99-$18.99

Food: ✭✭

Service: ✭✭

Atmosphere: ✭1/2

[Outstanding: ✭✭✭✭ Good: ✭✭✭ Fair or uneven: ✭✭ Poor: ✭]

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