I moved to Richmond from France, having grown up traveling and eating around Italy. The food at Mamma Zu's is fresh, cooked well, and unpretentious. It easily rivals the best meals I've shared in restaurants and homes in Italy. We eat there about once a week and have never had a disappointing meal. \r
As for the common complaints about the place, I really think Mamma Zu's embodies a very European restaurant culture, which is not superior to American dining culture, but is signifigantly different.\r
I find the staff knowledable and not over bearing, it allows you to be absorbed in your date, group, or paperback without a ready pitcher of ice water hovering or having to exchange a bunch of half-hearted pleasantries with a waiter or waitress you don't know. Some people find this rude, but it can also be very relaxing not to have to chit chat and fein intertest in someone's feined interest about ""How are we doing today?"" The staff are professionals, it's obvious they work together as a well-oiled team and have a huge loyalty to the establishment, they don't make mistakes, but nor do they perform like monkies for tips. \r
If you enjoyed being served by wait staff acting as servants, I can understand a sting of disappointment, but for many the feeling of being served by a fellow professional is much more comfortable than the waters cum lackies that one encounters who know nothing about food, and everything about striking up an instant repartee in a misplaced effort to make customers feel ""special"". \r
I don't know what to say about folks who complain about waiting. I suppose they see the meal as a goal to be acocmplished, the sooner the better. I've personally never seen anyone die of starvation at or near the restaurant, so I can't help but think these exaggerated woes stem from customer's inability to entertain themselves or talk at length with the folks they came with. The wait is part of the experience of any meal, the chance to slow down and converse and build anticipation. If you make the wait part of the meal, leisurely and unrushed, perhaps it would not offend? \r
I disagree that the decor is shabby chic or contrived in any way, it's merely utilitarian, comfortable, and pretty minimal. Again it is not there to entertain or distract, but rather allows you focus on savoring the meal without a lot of bells and whistles. \r
I suppose all I wanted to say is that many of the things that seem to irk people about this restaurant can be positive points if perceived slightly differently. My recommendation would be to go with people you really like, people you really want to talk to and share a meal with, don't be intimidated by the menu-try something you haven't had before, consider the wait a time of leisure to chat and people watch and catch a glimpse of dishes you may want to order - have a glass of wine while you wait!, and try not to think that you're doing everyone in the restaurant a favor by eating there, consider the experience mutual.