Restaurants in BF Homes come and go, but Mama Lou’s Italian Kitchen along Tropical Avenue has not only managed to sustain their growth, but evolved to open three more branches – one in Nuvali, at the UP Town Center, and one at the new Evia Lifestyle Mall along Daang Hari. While I have been a long-time fan of their restaurant in Parañaque, my favorite location is their newest one in the quiet and serene Evia. Situated along the outskirts of Las Piñas, the new brick-and-mortar, like the others, are always full of people, enjoying simple Italian fare made with the freshest, quality ingredients.
The interior of the newest restaurant has a homey, inviting feel – like you’ve walked into someone’s country kitchen whose dining area happened to spill out onto the patio – with exposed red-brick walls and wrought iron details giving the place a rustic vibe. The small details catch one’s eye, like the table propped up by sewing machine feet.
Mama Lou’s had recently come out with a few new dishes for families and friends to bond over (just in time for Christmas, too!), but I still can’t help but revert back to old favorites. Here are a few of the reasons why I keep on coming back to Mama Lou’s:
If you haven’t noticed from my previous restaurant and farm visits, I’m a big salad fan. Salad done right, that is. Mama Lou’s Insalata Caprese (₱250) melds the Italian classic with local ingredients, using freshly pounded pesto, cherry tomatoes, and kesong puti with a handful of chopped basil, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. The result is a fresh, juicy antipasto that sets the mood for the rest of the meal.
New on the menu is a Filipino invention that uses a popular Italian ingredient. And let me tell you, their Mushroom Chicharon (₱180) is absolutely fantastic! Crisp and light, the porous material just soaks up all the flavor of the light vinegar dip, softening the tender crunch, before almost disintegrating on the tongue. One cannot just stop at just one. Or fifteen.
You’d probably be surprised to see Poutine (₱160) – French fries topped with smooth brown gravy and Mozzarella cheese – on the menu. I know I was. It turns out that Robert, the owner, is Québécois, so this was a little reminder of his favorite childhood snack he had added for everyone else to enjoy. Add bacon (₱35) and maybe a cold brewskie with that, too.
The absolute star at Mama Lou’s, for me at least, is their Risotto Tartufo Funghi (₱325). You can smell the simple risotto with wild mushroom and truffle cream cooking in the kitchen, the strong heady scent of truffle permeating the air, before being served with shavings of Parmesan for a sharp kick to offset the rich, creaminess of the dish. This is my comfort food, and it takes a lot for me to veer from ordering this a hundredth time in a row.
The Spaghetti Seafood Olio (₱315), is ever so simple, using lots of sautéed garlic and assorted seafood, where the taste of each individual ingredient could stand on its own, but also merrily came together. The pasta is brought in from abroad and cooked ’til al dente, with just the right amount of give and heat to make each bite just enough to make you want to go back for another. And another. And another. Until you realize you’ve wiped your plate clean and all that’s left are pieces of leftover shells and shrimp ends.
Another new dish at the restaurant is the impressive-looking Vesuvio (₱495). Stuffing tubes of rigatone with ground meat, ricotta, and peas before completely covering everything with three kinds of sauces – pomodoro, pesto, and alfredo – as well as a whole heck of a lot of Mozzarella.
This looked like something out of a Tasty video – the ones where you feel like you can get the runs just by watching the 60-second video. While this is definitely filling, I feel like all the flavors got drowned in all that sauce, and while they would have been delicious on their own, my palate ended up getting confused and all I could taste was pesto-y pomodoro and creamy cheese. If you don’t have a humongous appetite, would probably be best shared. Unless you want to end up on the loo for the rest of the day.
I don’t see this Italian staple in Manila very much, and it’s probably because it can be difficult to get right. Gnocchi (₱275) are thick, doughy potato dumplings served in some sort of sauce. Mama Lou’s is served with nutmeg and a blue cheese sauce, and I have to say I wasn’t too fond of this. The dumplings were more of a ball than the cylindrical shape gnocchi usually takes, which made each bite too chewy with the blue cheese sauce being a bit too cloying after a few mouthfuls. Maybe a squeeze of lemon would’ve helped make the gnocchi balls go down… in a more delightful waaaaaaay.
Pizza is always a good choice to go for at Mama Lou’s, and their new Spinach and Goat Cheese Pizza (₱325/12-inches and ₱425/14-inches) is the bee’s knees! Light yet flavorful, this is best enjoyed rolled up with some cress and rocket.
If the description ‘light yet flavorful’ makes you cringe at the idea of enjoying a vegetarian pizza, their All Meat Pizza (₱325/12-inches and ₱450/14-inches) is the complete opposite, laden with ham, Italian, sausage, pepperoni and bacon. Not a speck of green in sight!
The good people behind Mama Lou’s make sure that there’s a little something for everyone, as it is a family restaurant, first and foremost. If someone isn’t fond of pasta and pizza, their Chicken Fra Diavalo (₱390) may appeal to their tastes. The oven-roasted chicken is marinated with rosemary, garlic, oregano, and a pinch of chili in extra olive oil, making for quite the juicy fowl which is also crispy in all the right places, served with mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables.
Kids and kids-at-heart go gaga over the Truffle Mac & Cheese (₱285)! I certainly did! Elbow macaroni is stirred in with the restaurant’s original blend of cheeses and a heavenly truffle cream before being covered with a blanket of melted Mozzarella and Cheddar cheese and a layer of breadcrumbs and baked in the over ’til golden and bubbling. Mmm…
For those looking for an entrée that is more Pinoy than Italian, I suggest they ask for Salpicao (₱295), the generous serving of tenderloin tips being sautéed in olive oil with garlic and butter, served with mashed potato with the thick consistency of polenta, and steamed vegetables.
When I don’t go for my usual order of mushroom risotto, my next go to dish at Mama Lou’s is their Salmon Grill (₱390), which uses a thick slab of Norwegian salmon fillet that’s pan-fried and served with a lemon, butter, and caper sauce, and your usual suspects of mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables.
Friends I’ve brought to Mama Lou’s enjoy their Grilled Pork Chops (₱350) the most, their giant slab grilled to perfection and superb with a bottle of beer. I try not to eat too much pork myself, but so far the reviews I’ve been hearing is it’s pretty good.
I had never really bothered to try the Marbled Rib Eye Steak (₱695) – I’ve been burned by bad experiences in other restaurants who don’t specialize in steak in the past (as well as some actual steakhouses), but theirs is something else! The exceptional tenderness of the imported USDA cut from Australia was surprising, given the affordable price. The medium rare prime rib is well seasoned, so you really don’t need the au jus, but hey, if you really want to have it with that or A1 Steak Sauce even, go right ahead.
For dessert, Mama Lou’s takes a page out of the famous line from the Godfather with Take the Cannoli (₱200), and the plating of the ricotta and mascarpone-filled dessert with pistachios and marsala takes its inspiration from Chef Massimo Bottura’s “Oops, I Dropped the Lemon Tart” of Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy. Let me warn you: one plate isn’t enough, so DO NOT share this!
Ironically, the only real Italian at Mama Lou’s was the owner’s grandmother, who was half-Italian but had passed away a long time before the restaurant was conceptualized. With that being said, the simple, rustic flavors that make Italian cooking what it is is still quite evident in all the dishes, as practically everything being put out has been very well-researched, with almost half of their basic ingredients being sourced from abroad to keep the standards up to par, as well as being meticulously tested before being put on the menu.
I truly enjoy my visits to Mama Lou’s Italian Kitchen as there is always something new to discover on the menu and it puts a smile on my face to see friends tuck into the food with gusto and marvel at just how affordable everything is compared to the guys next door. The new dishes – most especially the new dessert – is yet another reason why you’ll probably find me coming back again and again until they come up with something even better!
Mama Lou’s Italian Kitchen is located at the ground floor of Evia Lifestyle Center, Daang Hari, Las Piñas City and is open from 11am to 10pm from Sunday to Thursday and 11am to 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays. For inquiries or to reserve a table, please call +63 2 800 6315.