Dept. of Reinventions

Mamma Melina Goes Upscale

But are the new digs an improvement?

By Kathryn Robinson October 20, 2010

Awwww—remember the original?

Remember Mamma Melina’s former space beneath the Seven Gables on Roosevelt?

It was homey, candlelit, a little ragged around the edges. Come-as-you-are for a plate of housemade pasta and a glass of chianti. And if the pasta wasn’t the best you’d ever tasted, that was okay…it was simple food in simple surrroundings, and the experience added up to something cozy and Old World.

Well Mamma Melina traded up, for a space roughly across from U Village on 25th, in keeping with the trend around these parts of late to transplant going concerns into hot new spaces.

And what a space it is! Floor-to-ceiling windows. Shiny metallic accents. White tablecloths. Swanky low lighting. Curtain’d private rooms. Dripping chandeliers. Soaring ceilings. Techno soundtrack. Paintings on the ceiling! (Seriously.) Heated toilet seats in the bathrooms!

Uh…wow. Whole lotta Barolo (the family owns that glittering downtown ristorante too) where the Mamma used to be. The old “come-as-you-are” now feels more like “better-try-a-little-harder.”

And the food? Well that’s the thing…because against these highbrow surroundings, Mamma’s homely food now feels underachieving. What was forgivable, even charming, in that comfy old room—the bland but addictive calamari, the studiously plain Bolognese—is now several notches below the standards raised by the decor.

Lesson for restaurants? Be careful what you wish for.

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