Happy birthday Mamma Mia!
When a restaurant has been around for 35 years, it has to be doing something right. Mamma Mia in Summertown is on one of my favourite little Oxford streets, South Parade, that also takes in the brilliant Sarah Wiseman Gallery, Vanilla fashion boutique and the Oxford Wine Cafe, not to mention one of my favourite Oxford theatres, The North Wall.
It’s one of two restaurants, the other more recent addition in 2000 being in Jericho. The original Summertown version does exactly what you’d expect of a local’s Italian pizzeria – it’s very welcoming, unpretentious, buzzy (very busy right throughout lunch serving) and well-priced. Decor is straight out of a movie, with wine bottles adorning walls, green red and white colour schemes, and those plastic menus beloved of American diners. You can see how brilliant it would be for families on an early evening and in fact, that’s one of the ways I would definitely use it. The North Wall theatre is only minutes away so next time I take my kids I’ll take them for a bite to eat here, either before or after.
Here’s the space, you can see for yourself the kind of relaxed vibe it goes for.
You’re not going to expect cordon bleu (or whatever the Italian translation is) in a place that charges you £7.85 for a main, salad plus a drink at lunchtime, but what you do get is a quite phenomenal pizza, all made fresh in the glass-walled kitchen.
I started with some calamari – I’d eaten half of them by the time I remembered to take this photo. I’d have liked a bit more crispiness to the batter in an ideal world but I polished it off without any trouble.
My default pizza is La Reine, which yeah, yeah, I get it, is a bit predictable, so this time I went for the Mamma Mia special, a spicy pepproni, smoked ham, artichoke, mushroom, olive, pepper onion and caper number topped off by a free range egg. I’m not proud to tell you this, but I ate this whole fella.
Then I had dessert, an almond and amaretto cheesecake, below. Very tasty in a basic piggy kind of way, I ate that up too! I’m not massively into canned cream but strangely I felt it was rather endearing at Mamma Mia. I know my children would have considered it the highlight of the meal.
So maybe you’re getting the idea here! Pizzas are amazing, service impeccable, position lovely on the South Parade road, with an outdoor terrace that I would have sat out in if I wasn’t also tapping away on my computer. Mamma Mia isn’t high on sophistication, but it’s easy going charm will have me going back for more.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: relaxed lunches and dinners all the way! Lovely for kids, great for a grabbed bite and espresso for lunch, ideal for groups of friends pitching up together.
Not for: anyone looking for more finesse than a very good pizza joint is going to give them. Anyone searching for a designed-up superslick restaurant should just walk on by.
£££: Brilliant value on lunches at the mo with this £7.85 deal for pizza and a drink but truly it’s very affordable anyway with most pizzas around the £8-9 mark and desserts £5.50ish. Eat up, you can afford to!
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