Thew new look Mamma Mia

Being fully booked in the middle of a cold, grey and financially oppressive January is impressive. But considering the new Mamma Mia in Summertown is about four times bigger than the old one, and literally turning people away at the weekends, it’s an incredible achievement.

Packed with families, teenagers, couples, students and everyone in between, people can dine solo at the new breakfast bar in the centre or en masse in lovely, big, noisy groups.

It’s an Italian restaurant after all and in Italy they celebrate families, food and getting together without any prudery whatsoever. And this is the key to Mamma Mia’s success. That and its fabulous food.

Owner Jon Ellse and manager Gabrijel Jozic on the new look Mamma Mia in Summertown

Luckily we’d booked, and as we waited for our table to be relaid (it’s a constant turnaround here), we had time to take in the new look Mamma Mia on South Parade. read about it here

It has a gleaming new bar, huge open plan kitchen and neon signs, and yet the same green and red colour scheme prevails, while the menu has stayed exactly the same. Instantly familiar and yet distinctly different. And it’s easy to find because it’s right next door to the old one.

The new look Mamma Mia in Summertown

The menu is wonderfully familiar – we have eaten at Mamma Mia’s since the kids were tiny and in high chairs, tomato sauce smeared around their faces – so we all knew what we wanted.

“I ordered the arrabbiata because it’s the best version this side of Rome”

Big juicy folded garlic breads oozing with cheese and dripping with herbs and garlic, which always silence the crowd.

The cheesy folded garlic bead

Then a round of piping hot, crispy calamari with a zingy lemon and caper mayonnaise (£8.75), the irresistible fried zucchini sticks (£7.45), perfectly cooked inside with a vibrant fresh tomato and roast pepper dip and a generous plate of bruschetta (on a baked Pugliese sour dough) with fresh chopped tomatoes, garlic and basil.

Big floppy slices of Americana pizza were disappearing at a rate of knots

Pizza or pasta is always the big dichotomy because both are great here. I ordered the arrabbiata (penne with a chilli, garlic and tomato sauce, £7.45 or £10.95 depending on how hungry you are) because it’s the best version this side of Rome – just the right amount of spice, oil and thick sauce that sticks to the pasta perfectly. The perfect comfort food.

The arrabiata

My obvious enjoyment was being mirrored on the other side of the table, by all and sundry. Big floppy slices of Americana pizza were disappearing at a rate of knots topped with spicy peperoni and onions (£12.25), as was the Stagioni amply covered with olives, smoked ham, mushrooms & artichoke (£13.45).

Pizza at Mamma Mia

The puddings are as impossible to resist and gloriously old fashioned, so a portion of chocolate fudge cake with vanilla ice cream (£5.95) and of course the PROFITEROLES with vanilla cream & rich chocolate sauce (£6.95)

So next time I’m having a bad day you might find me eating a steaming bowl of arrabbiata while the rain pours down outside, or on a good day actually.

Because Mamma Mia ticks all the boxes, for all the people, and doesn’t make a big song and dance about it. No wonder we all love it. It’s so simple.

Mamma Mia, South Parade, Summertown.