The Downtown Portland brunch scene has a new participant: Mama Mia Trattoria, at SW 2nd and Washington by the Morrison Bridge, has started weekend service, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
I went over with That Guy to review it. Confused? Read on.
Mama Mia Trattoria
Kinda fancy, kinda Italian
Brunch served weekends from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
$13–15 (all major cards)
I am lucky enough to visit Italy almost every year, leading hiking and touring trips, and I try very, very hard to not be That Guy about Italian culture. You know That Guy: he tells you that a real Italians would never drink a cappuccino after lunch, that their high-speed and chaotic driving style actually makes more sense than ours, and that the word panini actually means sandwiches. What you really want, he says, is un panino.
You hate That Guy, right? So do I, yet I’ve said all the above things. So I tried to leave That Guy outside when I went in for Brunch at Mama Mia. That Guy didn’t expect to find any kind of “authentic” Italian place, but I didn’t care; I was hungry and downtown and didn’t want to wait for brunch. I arrived at 10 a.m., and sat right down. So we were both happy.
At first glance, and probably more so at night, Mama Mia looks kinda fancy. They have more than 20 crystal chandeliers and nearly 50 gilded mirrors, a whole wall of 14-foot-tall windows, and a black granite bar they call the most comfortable in downtown Portland. That Guy seriously doubts the latter claim and has never seen a place like Mama Mia in Italy, but we were keeping an open mind.
The staff was prompt and attentive, and I had a menu plus a drink within minutes. The crowd seemed a little touristy, with no sign of slackers, hipsters, or anybody who might soon be appearing on Portlandia. That Guy and I were fine with this; eating in downtown places like Mama Mia and Mother’s Bistro (which formerly had the same owners) is like leaving “Portland” and visiting “Downtown American City” for a while.
The menu is molto grande large, with nine cocktails, five four-egg frittatas, four four-egg scrambles, several variations on French Toast and pancakes, five Benedict/specialties, and a Lighter Side section of granola, fresh fruit and oatmeal. Oh, and there are six things on the kids menu plus enough a la carte sides to make up several meals. The Italian flare shows up in ingredients like mozzarella, Italian sausage, and “Mama Mia’s Celebrated Pesto.” Otherwise, it’s pretty generic all stuff you’ve seen before.
That Guy, who would like you to know that Italians don’t even eat breakfast, insisted we get the Mama Mia Classic Benedict, because it includes prosciutto, and other than espresso and olive oil, the best way to judge an Italian ristorante restaurant is to try their prosciutto. Honestly, neither of us expected much.
We were pleasantly surprised. First, the food came right out—my whole meal took about 45 minutes, though I was never rushed—and the Benedict was well done and tasty. It had—along with the prosciutto (which That Guy was underwhelmed by)—excellent spinach, a perfectly poached egg and yummy hollandaise on their standard rosemary romano scone, which isn’t Italian in the least held up well and was still firm and tasty to the end.
Allora Look, nobody will ever confuse Mama Mia with Portland’s best brunches, but there were times during that Benedict when I really, really dug it. The ingredients were fresh and well prepared, and there were moments of outstanding taste. And how many decent downtown Portland brunch places have no wait at all?
I suppose that’s our best summary of brunch at Mama Mia: It’s not authentic tasty, it’s fake comfortable and friendly, and it’s touristy very accessible. With a half-shrug and a hand held palm-up, we conclude, Va bene, non è male.
Wait: None. Seating: Room for about 50. Large groups? Yes, with notice. Portion size: Decent. Changes: Lots of options. Coffee: Stumptown. Other drinks: Cocktails, Italian sodas, espresso. Feel-goods: “only the best local products and sustainable resources available.” Health options: Egg whites and cholesterol-free eggs available for $0.95. WiFi? No.
Read all of my Portland Breakfast Reviews. You can also like Breakfast in Bridgetown on Facebook and follow @PDXBreakfastGuy on Twitter or Paul Gerald on Google+. You can buy the breakfast book, too! I also hike and travel and talk and lead trips.