It's true what they say: if it ain't broken, don't fix it. Such is true with Mamma Melina's food from near Napoli. No big oohs and aahs, no big tricks, but the stuff they dish out are pretty darn good, because they are tried and true.
The restaurant is tucked away in the same building as Seven Gables Theatre at the very busy corner of 50th and Roosevelt, across the street from the imposing Tubs of Seattle Spa. The location and the views from inside the restaurant are not ideal, but that doesn't faze me from seeking out their good food.
The place oozes with the old-fashioned restaurant charm and you can tell it's a family-run business. Pasquale, Melina's husband would sing from time to time, and his paintings and murals adorn the restaurant. The space is nice and cozy; the tables are close together and it's an intimate space. With the oil lamp lit later in the evening, it becomes lively and romantic at the same time.
The flavors are intense and very true to the ingredients they use. The flat bread comes hot out of the oven and is tender. Rotolini di Melenzane, grilled eggplant stuffed with mozzarella & prosciutto, is hearty and aromatic in tomato sauce. Pastas also come in hearty portions, perfectly al dente, with great flavors. I really enjoyed the spaghetti alle vongole - cooked with fresh Manila clams, white wine, garlic, olive oil, parsley and some red pepper flakes - such a seemingly simple dish, but the juice was so succulent and flavorful I thought they might have cooked it in a seafood stock. Linguine alla pescatora is also very good, except clams were curiously missing and mussels were overpowering the whole dish. (If you love mussels, go for it.)
Their wine list goes very well with the laid-back cuisine from their home in Italy - you can get a pretty good wine for under $30 a bottle. The house pinot grigio isn't too bad, either. They also have a limoncello you could have with your dessert, which is a nice change of pace if you want something different from the ports they offer or single-malt whiskeys. They also have a few grappas, sambuca and full bar.
The desserts takes the same approach - uncomplicated and scrumptious. Their tiramisu is very, very creamy and smooth - mascarpone overload! Lady fingers are perfectly soaked. With a cup of espresso, it would be the perfect end to your meal.
I would give it a "Perfect" rating, it it weren't for the slightly inconsistent service provided by the wait staff. The owner family is charming nonetheless.
P.S. They were going to serve Copper River Salmon risotto the day after we visited in the beginning of the week - limited time special. We had a show to catch the next day so we couldn't make it, but Roberto, one of the three sons, had the chef prepare it for us the following day! (There was just one serving of the salmon left, too - whew.) Thank you Roberto!
P.P.S. I overheard they might be trying to open another restaurant again - hopefully that wouldn't spread their resources too thin, because this place is a gem!