Review: Mamma Italia, Ashbrooke, Sunderland
Friendly service goes a long way in the restaurant trade '“ and it's something this Italian joint has in spades.
Owner Pascal is one of the few in the city’s competitive Italian eatery market who people know by name and it’s a familiarity that’s down to his focus on service being as important as what’s on your plate.
It’s an ethos that means you get a flavour of warm Mediterranean hospitality on visits here – despite this being a restaurant tucked away in a Sunderland suburb.
If you don’t live in the Ashbrooke / Grangetown area, Mamma Italia’s probably isn’t an obvious choice, but it’s a very decent destination venue indeed, and one where you don’t have to dodge the city centre traffic wardens. To the right of the site is Mamma Italia with its mostly monochrome decor, peppered with images of classic film stars, that makes for an atmospheric setting.
And Pascal liked the site so much he’s taken over the adjacent Ashbrooke pub to create Pascal’s at Ashbrooke, a stylish little gastro pub which has more of a focus on street food and cocktails.
We took our seats in Mamma Italia and, despite it being the Saturday after New Year, the place was still buzzing – no mean feat in the worst month of the year for the restaurant trade.
Our only quibble was being seated a little too close to the bathrooms, but with the place rammed there didn’t appear to be any other option. We didn’t mention it, so we couldn’t really grumble about the constant stream of people past our table.
The aforementioned service was as warm as I’d read about in previous reviews and though not in your face, was attentive, with my wine glass barely finished before we were asked if we would like a refill.
Food-wise, the menu is a real Italian job, with a wide range of pizzas, pastas, steak, chicken dishes and more.
I chose the warm Parma ham and mozzarella to start, which is one of the priciest starters at £6.40 – most come in around the £4 /£5 mark.
Served in a timely fashion, the dish featured two plump chunks of gooey cheese wrapped in plenty of Parma ham on a bed of salad with just the right amount of drizzle without drowning the dish in oil. It’s a difficult starter to get wrong, and this one hit the spot.
For mains I chose another Italian staple, the capricciosa pizza, which was cheap as chips at £7.90. I’ve seen happy hour menus charge more. With a good base and plenty of toppings, it was just what my rumbling tummy ordered.
The home-made puddings also looked worth a punt and with our bill coming in at only £34 for two two-courses and wine, we would have been tempted had we not been stuffed.
Fancy a drink after dinner? You don’t have to go far, just along the corridor to Pascal’s at Ashbrooke, in fact.
A pub and restaurant with purse-friendly prices and even friendlier service - this place has it all under one roof.