Family, food hallmarks at Oh Mamma Mia! Restaurant
By Paul Roat/Bob Stein
Although you may expect to enjoy a fine Italian meal when you go to Oh Mamma Mia! Restaurant, you will leave as a member of an extended Italian family. Chef Giuseppe Urbano will offer a hello from his post at the open kitchen. Regular customers — it seems that everyone there is a regular — will offer a greeting. Don’t be shy to eye the dishes on the tables as you make your way through the intimate dining rooms to your table or place at the counter.
In the original dining room a long counter separates the kitchen from the dining area and offers the best seats in the house for the dining show, more of the production, later. Oh Mamma Mia! offers regional Italian fare. Italian food is much more than pizza and spaghetti and meatballs: every region has special foods created from their special meats, vegetables, and fruits, and Chef Giuseppe’s menu traverses his home country for his patrons’ dining pleasure.
A popular starting dish is Calamari al Pomodoro ($12.99). The calamari rings are braised with garlic, red crushed pepper, extra-virgin olive oil, and basil in a pomodoro sauce.
Another great starting dish is Cozze alla Arrabbiata ($9.99) Mussels sautéed with garlic, red crushed peppers and pomodoro sauce. You know the mussels must be good when Chef Giuseppe’s mother orders it. There are eight starting dishes ranging from $6.99 to $12.99.
There are 18 pasta dishes offered at Oh Mamma Mia! Chef Giuseppe said the most popular fare, in fact the most popular menu item he has, is Linguine ai Gamberetti ($22.99), Sauteed with garlic, large shrimp, scallops, diced tomatoes and asparagus tips.
If you love eggplant you must try the Melanzane alla Parmiggiana dish ($18.99). “People are learning how to eat well,” the chef explained. “Everything we offer is contemporary Italian food,” he said. “It’s what you would find in Italy today. It’s all regional, and the recipes represent Italy. They’re traditional recipes using all fresh products. It’s all about the food.”
A popular dish for carnivores is Lasagna alla Bolognese ($18.99). The six-layer dish has homemade egg pasta layers with alternating levels of creamy béchamel, Bolognese meat sauce, original from Bologna!
All pasta is made from pure durum wheat Semolina flour and served with a cup of soup of the day or house salad and fresh Ciabatta bread.
Your tour of Italy at Oh Mamma Mia! continues with entrees of chicken or veal, veal dishes (most
priced at $25.99) or chicken (all at $22.99). Chef Giuseppe said the second-most popular menu selection is Al Marsala. The veal slices are indeed thinly sliced, the butter, onion, and porcini mushrooms succulent, and the Marsala wine sauce wonderful.
All entrees come with a choice of soup or house salad, Ciabatta bread, the vegetable of the day and grilled polenta. The polenta, by the way, is superb.
Be sure to save room for dessert. A highlight is Tiramisu ($6.99), Lady fingers dipped in expresso coffee and covered with mascarpone cheese cream.
Oh, and about the show. Chef Giuseppe has “Chef Cams” mounted over he and the assistant chef’s work spaces that are featured on huge flat-screens for all to watch as they work in the kitchen. The production is also provided via a large mirror above the prep space. Best viewing is at the counter. The Chef Cams are arguably the only such features offered in the Sarasota area and are a wonderful complement to allow foodies to watch how their food is prepared.
Oh Mamma Mia! opened six years ago and now has two dining rooms with seating for 103 counting the wine bar. The new expansion offers patrons a place to host private parties for up to 50 people with prices starting at $19.99 to $29.99 each.
For those that wish to master the art of regional Italian cooking, Chef Giuseppe offers private cooking classes for up to eight on Mondays, or individual private lessons. Be sure to call for details.
Chef Giuseppe graduated from a culinary institute in Milan 25 years ago. “The first three years of school I attended and received a chef certification after that I studied as hotel restaurant management for two years and one year as dietary manager,” said Chef Urbano. His healthy cuisine at the restaurant comes from his tenure as a certified dietary official. He also was a caterer in Chicago, a corporate chef at Winn Dixie and worked at EPCOT in Disneyworld. But family beckoned him to Sarasota, and family extended to Oh Mamma Mia! “My 15-year-old son said he never got a chance to see me,” Chef Giuseppe said. “I realized that family was the only thing that mattered and we moved here.”
Why Sarasota? “We’re just like everybody else,” he said with a
laugh. “We came for the beach!”
2324 Gulf Gate Drive, Sarasota, FL 34231
P (941) 706-2821
Hours: Tues-Thurs: Kitchen open 3.30-9.30 p.m.
Fri-Sat: Kitchen open 2.30-10.30 p.m. (After sunset hours: 9 p.m. – ½ price on selected wines)
Reservations are highly recommended. Simply call or find an open table on their website: http://www.ohmammamiarestaurant.com