DINING OUT:

When I first heard that Mama Mia was opening in Burbank, I had visions of the critically acclaimed Broadway musical in my mind. Well, maybe ABBA did not inspire this version, but it definitely deserves the spotlight.

Mama Mia in Burbank is the latest entry in the Italian pizza and pasta take-out trend. I admit, they have some serious competition in this city alone, but if given a chance, they just might take center stage.

Take note, when you first walk into Mama Mia, the stark white floor and walls may blind you for a moment. They obviously still have some decorating to do. Over the counter you have a much more interesting view of the kitchen, especially if they are preparing pizzas.

Don’t wait for a hostess to seat you. They have yet to fill the space in the corner with tables or chairs. That’s OK. Grab a menu and walk over to the counter. Everyone at Mama Mia is friendly. In fact, they immediately pointed out the coupons. Now that is my kind of service! They also have some great lunch specials.

The menu offers a variety of pastas, sandwiches, salads and pizzas. The pizzas are made with 100% mozzarella cheese, fresh-made dough and real tomato sauce. The taste of oregano and garlic in the sauce definitely comes through. There are more than 25 toppings for the pizza from the traditional sausage, black olives and pepperoni to the more exciting grilled eggplant and feta cheese.

They also offer more than a dozen gourmet pizzas. I thought the shrimp and roasted pepper with sun-dried tomatoes was pretty good, but Ron disagreed. He really liked the barbecued chicken with the sweet barbecue sauce. I had to admit, I liked that one, too.

I thought the selection of pastas was fairly basic, but a classic done right is always better than something exotic that is only so-so. Mama Mia’s has 15 pasta dishes from the traditional spaghetti, lasagna, ziti, eggplant Parmesan and fettuccini alfredo to their one rather strange Hawaiian spaghetti with ham and pineapple. I’ll let you be the judge on that one.

The tomato sauce on the pastas tasted a little too sweet for me, but my friends loved it. I preferred the alfredo sauce. It was creamy without being too thick, and the melted mozzarella cheese and drizzle of olive oil over my tortellini was ideal.

What really impressed us were the portions. Each entree was packed in a round tin foil container that was perfect for transit and reheating. I live close by, so everything was still steaming hot when we placed all of our entrees on the table. Of course, you know me. As soon as “Saturday Night Live” started, I was in the kitchen heating up my midnight snack. I found the tin container very convenient. It reheated in less than 10 minutes in the oven.

Mama Mia also has more than a dozen salads and a long list of sandwiches. Everyone in my group agreed that the Chinese chicken salad with crispy wontons, rice noodles and chunks of breast meat was the best. I assumed that the side salad that came with each entree (thanks to our coupon) would be just a container of lettuce. Not only was the portion generous, I was pleased to find a real salad complete with tomatoes, carrots, mozzarella cheese and sliced olives.

The sandwich menu definitely has something for everyone, from the basic hamburger to the Italian sausage and cheese. They even have a few impressive vegetarian selections, including a delicious breaded eggplant sandwich with Italian tomato sauce. I was also impressed with their meatball sandwich that is sure to become one of their signature menu items.

This Mama Mia may not cause you to break into spontaneous song and dance, but it just might raise the curtain on a better alternative to fast food and take-out.


 CHRISTINE PUTNAM is a freelance writer. You can reach her at www.christineputnam.com.

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