Pizza at Mamma Mia

There was a family leaving as we arrived at Mamma Mia in Jericho, exiting complete with toddlers, scooters and raincoats, all very jolly despite the terrible weather, no doubt replete with pizza and pasta.

But then that’s the thing abut Mamma Mia, it caters for everyone in a way that’s enormously enticing and accessible – big family gathering of all ages, tick, couples, tick, young professionals tick, pensioners tick, date night tick. You get the picture.

Because when you want some really good Italian food in a friendly environment, where the standards never waver and the service is always attentive, Mamma Mia is always there for you.

Mamma Mia Jericho

The Jericho branch has been closed for a month, the kitchens, restaurant and toilets given a refresh, nothing too outlandish, owner Jon Ellse keen to keep his regulars happy, just enough to ensure it remains at the top of its game.

It’s a different space to the Summertown sister ship, the Jericho branch divided into two halves – the front and back.

Bustling on a wet Thursday night, it was business as usual when we arrived, waiting staff whirling like dervishes between the tables, a constant flow of guests arriving and leaving. Never a dull moment.

The lovely staff at Mamma Mia

And while many regulars know what they want before they even step in the door, the menu staying reassuringly the same, the specials give the chefs space to flex their culinary muscles.

On the night in question this was an asparagus and artichoke salad with cherry tomatoes, olives and dressed leaves for starter, the gnocchetti sardi (a small ridged pasta shape from Sardinia) with king prawns, artichokes, pea pesto and fresh rosemary, or the pizza of the day – mozzarella, lecino olives, sun-dried tomatoes, basil pesto, rocket, provoloncino cheese and pecorino Romano.

Manager Jason Spallini at Mamma Mia

The latter immediately caught my eye before we’d even ordered drinks, so we endeavoured to try something new this time around, and were amply rewarded.

But I digress, because seated at the front, soaking up the atmosphere, we were immaculately looked after by manager Jason Spallini who hails from Bari in Puglia, and is as passionate about pizza and pasta as you’d expect of an Italian.

Ordering the calzone-style cheese garlic bread (£4.95) to stave off the hunger, it arrived positively oozing with mozzarella, allowing us more time to think about what came next.

bruschetta at Mamma Mia

A bit of everything, from the juicy bruschetta with chopped tomatoes, garlic & basil (£6.95) to the wedges of fried zucchini sticks dunked into that wonderful fresh tomato & roast pepper dip (£7.95) and made for sharing.

The crispy fried calamari with its zingy lemon & caper mayonnaise (£8.95) and the piece de resistance – the innocuous looking funghi all aglio, (garlic mushrooms with warm bread) 8.95 which were so good they had us scrambling to prong the last one, the pert, bouncy little mushrooms, doused in garlic and herbs and so unctuous. Buono!


Then came the pizzas, the traditionalists going Americana (£13.95) or Americana hot, one vegetariana (£14.45) packed with colourful legumes and a penne arrabbiata because it’s rude not to here, the sauce rich and fiery.

But it was the pizza special really stole the show – the bianca (no tomato sauce) heaving with delectable Italian goodies, and smothered in cheese and piquant olives.

The pizza special

For dessert, the profiteroles (£7.95) with lots of spoons because we were stuffed. But the chewy choux pastry and creamy filling, engulfed in chocolate and ice cream still went down a treat.

A huge success all round then, and with a total variety of ages sitting around our table, all looking very pleased with themselves, I reflected on how clever Mamma Mia is to remain all things to all people. Long may it continue.

Mamma Mia Jericho is at 102 Walton Street, OX2 6EB.