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Leefstyl | Lifestyle > Kos & Wyn | Food & Wine > Rubrieke | Columns > Paul Murray: Murray's Food Trails

The Mamma Roma Trail


Paul Murray - 2007-06-26

When you dine at Mamma Roma’s you can surely say Mamma Mia! Italians would exclaim the cooking is like Mamma’s – made with care and really nice. Like good Catholics they do not believe in cutting back on the number of Babba Romas, so there are five already in existence and another on the way. Go to www.mammaroma.co.za to see the locations.

Romano and Cristina Gorrini are the perfect pair when it comes to Italian restaurateurs. They are Italian thoroughbreds with their feet firmly on South African soil. The flair for fine food and the fact that they have a strong feel for the restaurant ensure a memorable dining experience for valued patrons.

Present in all the restaurants is the Rhea Silvia emblem, the She Wolf suckling Romulus and Remus, the legendary founding fathers of Rome.

The Caesar chair is another an emblem of Mamma Roma, from the days of La Vita, under the auspices of Aldo Novati and Dr Chris Barnard. Dining at Mamma Roma’s seated in a Caesar chair might not make the food taste nicer, but it certainly makes you feel like a king or queen.

There’s a magnificent amount of history around the chair. It was Caesar’s trusted friend Brutus who snuck behind the Emperor’s chair on the Ides of March in 44 BC while the other conspirators moved towards the Emperor to greet him. As they came towards him they took hold of his robe and he retaliated. At that point he noticed his friend, uttered "Et tu Brute?" (And you too Brutus?), and pulled his robe over his face, at which point Brutus stabbed him in the groin. The rest of the attackers joined in, pooling a cool 23 stabs. With this, the blood spattering from the body pulsated on to the adjoining statue of an old enemy, Pompey.

Not that any of this kind of history applies to Mamma Roma. Except, of course, if you want to drop your lovely blood-red spaghetti sauce on the floor or decide on a pasta slinging match, like between Henkel and Polony (Hitler and Mussolini) in Charlie Chaplin’s classic The Great Dictator!

Eating at Mamma Roma’s takes you back to the times of the Romans. Romano’s spaghetti dishes are scrumptious, beautifully al dente and the same that you find in Rome’s Trastevere (where the ordinary Romans live).


Asking for Rudi’s Salad (made famous by the original owner Aldo) is a fitting way to start the meal, ensuring all the vital minerals and certainly not omitting the kaleidoscope of colours – the red from the tomato, the green from the lettuce and the white from the mushrooms. Eating the salad is, therefore, celebrating Italy’s national colours, green, white and red, represented vertically, in that order, in its flag.

Romano’s veals are simply to die for – real veal, cooked the real-veal way. While some enjoy grilling their veal, Italians like to sauté theirs, at the same time ensuring it does not get too dry. The timing of the final admixture of the accompanying sauce, be it Limone or Marsala, is crucial. The fish and meat dishes, too, are delectable. Romano's proprietor-chef ensures only the finest in quality and preparation, supported by dedicated staff, without reservation, and his expert abilities have been passed on to his staff in all his restaurants.

Veal chops

How about following one of the recipes?

Take 6 veal chops,
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese,
1/4 cup Marsala wine,
1 shallot, finely chopped,
2 teaspoons butter,
1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon lemon pepper.

Preheat grill for a medium heat. Meanwhile melt the butter in a small skillet and then add the shallot and lemon pepper. Cook for a remaining three minutes. Remove butter mixture from the heat, then add the Parmesan cheese and the Marsala, slowly mixing in. Divide the sauce, saving one half for basting and keeping the rest for serving. Sprinkle the veal chops with salt after which place them on the grill and cook on medium heat for 18-20 minutes, turning once. Baste with sauce throughout the cooking process. Once cooked, remove from heat and serve with reserved sauce over top.

Serve with "Granny’s" mashed potato (creamy) and peas.

Mamma Roma’s pasta dishes include the Italian sausage in Arrabiata sauce, and the Pescatore (mixed seafood in a tomato, olive oil and garlic sauce). The pizza menu offers all the well-known combos as well as more sophisticated combinations like the Mamma Roma pizza with bacon, avocado and blue cheese, or the Bianca with Parma ham and camembert. Alternatively, be creative and design your own.

Meat dishes include Lamb Shank served off the bone with a salsa of sun-dried tomatoes and basil. Calamari is always a good choice (either grilled or deep-fried), as are the Mussels Marinara (garlic, tomato and oregano) or the Mussels Crema Vino (white wine, cream and garlic).

We dined recently at the new Table View venue. The interior is airy and contemporary, with separate smoking and non-smoking areas for the added comfort of diners. The well-appointed bar has been located in the smoking area together with a television screen for watching that all-important match, and, of course a fireplace for those chilly winter evenings. The central feature behind the bar is the large picture window which has uninterrupted views of Table Bay and the majestic Table Mountain. At night the view is equally impressive, with glorious sunsets giving way to the twinkling lights of the city.

As with all the Mamma Romas the menu is substantial with a generous selection of pasta dishes (including gnocchi, ravioli and linguine), with the option of smaller portions for ladies as well as starter portions. For a traditional starter try the Melanzane Parmigiana (fried eggplant with tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese) or the Fior Di Latte Caprese (Mozzarella with tomato and avocado). For the main course the menu offers several superb veal dishes and some excellent house specialities such as the Rack of Lamb, Tripe Milanese and Osso Bucco. Fish lovers are spoilt for choice with a variety of seafood dishes that include Fritto Misto (fried calamari, kingklip and prawns), fresh line fish and calamari steak.

Phone 021 685 2051 to speak to Romano or a member of the family or staff for bookings. The accent on the other side of the phone might well be real Italian, like the food you find in the bill of fare. And remember, when you have finished, to say "Ciao Arrivederci" (Bye-bye). Or if in the mood, as Perry Como used to sing:

Arrivederci Roma,
Roma, Roma, Roma …

Except … it’s all so nice, so you’re bound to be back!

Images courtesy of Dining-OUT.