I was recently asked for the 18th time, “ Have you been to the new Mama Carolla’s breakfast place yet?” And up until this morning, the answer had always been no. By a happy accident, I have now been initiated.
My friend Katie and I had planned to meet at Zest at 9:30 this morning to partake of the signature crème brulee French toast and copious amounts of coffee, but when I pulled into the suspiciously empty parking lot, I knew something had gone awry. The sign on the door said it didn’t open until 10 a.m. Huh? A breakfast/lunch/brunch café? Seems to me they’re missing out on some primetime morning traffic, but whatever.
With two small daughters in tow, I knew Katie wouldn’t be able to wait out another half an hour before getting food, so a change of plan steered us in the direction of Taste instead. Until I remembered Good Morning Mama’s as I passed it on 54th St. going west.
An offshoot of the ever-popular Mama Carolla’s Italian restaurant just half a block away, Good Morning Mama’s opened last November and has been enjoying a steady word-of-mouth buzz ever since.
To say this place is shiny and happy is an understatement. It’s sort of a cross between a kitschy 1950s-style diner (complete with jukebox) and Oz, painted in cheery yellow with blue trim. It’s almost too cheery. Like, if you were hungover, headachy and nauseated, it might be a little more than you could handle. Bluebirds appear to be the Good Morning Mama’s mascot; they’re painted on the exterior and flying across banners hanging from the ceiling. I half-expected Snow White to float out of the kitchen to take our order. (No disrespect to our server Barb, who was very friendly and efficient.)
This is not to say the owners don’t have a sense of humor – there is a poster of Michelangelo’s David sculpture on one wall, advertising “sausage sandwiches” by way of a very strategically placed ribbon. Another tongue-in-cheek poster promotes meatballs with two very ample specimens on a platter directly in front of a woman’s bosom.
I ordered a cup of coffee while I waited for Katie to arrive, which proved to be a minor disappointment. To be fair, Mama isn’t a café or coffee shop per se, but I really expected a better cup of Joe from an Italian-themed establishment. Can’t knock them for serving mimosas, but a latte or cappuccino would have been a nice option. And, here’s one of my biggest breakfast joint pet peeves — I HATE it when restaurants expect you to serve yourself creamer from those horrid little half and half packets on the table instead of bringing a little tiny pitcher of something cold and fresh. God knows how long those things sit out every day, and I’m always suspicious of “dairy” products that don’t require refrigeration.
Katie soon rolled in with her adorable entourage of her two-year-old Olivia and infant Audrey, looking the very picture of competent motherhood. After some chair/booster seat arranging, we were settled in and ready to get down to the business of ordering.
Mama’s menu is fairly straightforward – eggs, toast, sausage, pancakes and other traditional breakfast fare, but with an Italian flair. Several items intrigued me, particularly the “eggs in purgatory” simmered in pomodoro sauce with fresh basil, and the “pasta mama” – whole-wheat pasta with scrambled eggs, Parmesan Reggiano and pancetta. Hm. I had a hard time deciding.
I make a ton of omelets and scrambled eggs at home, so I try to order something different when I go out for breakfast or brunch. The java French toast caught my eye; Kahlua-spiked batter and toasted pecans sounded particularly yummy. Realizing I hadn’t eaten biscuits and gravy in God knows how long, that’s what I opted for in the end, with a side of breakfast potatoes and an orange juice. Katie got the plain ol’ French toast (not slagging – that’s what it’s actually called on the menu!), and talked me into sharing an order of the Italian fried biscuits, although to be fair, she didn’t have to do much convincing.
The four golf ball-sized biscuits arrived first, comfortingly warm. If you’ve ever been to one of the speedway suites during the Indy 500 and enjoyed the fried biscuits that Jugg’s Catering serves there, these were very nearly the same thing except rolled in cinnamon sugar. There’s even apple butter in one of the plastic jam/jelly jars on each table for dipping. In short, they were a hit, especially with Olivia, who kept requesting more after every bite.
Our meals followed soon after. My choice was a hearty serving of two fluffy buttermilk biscuits split and drenched with the heavily sausage-studded creamy gravy. It was tasty, but so filling, I couldn’t finish it all. The potatoes were sliced thin and fried crisp with, dare I say it, a hint of onion. Katie and Olivia both seemed to enjoy the French toast.
The place never got crowded while we were there, but there was a steady trickle of customers the entire time. I can imagine it fills up pretty fast on the weekends. The girls were good as gold, and Katie and I were able to enjoy a fairly relaxed and leisurely hour chatting about the joys and perils of mommyhood.
My total bill was a very reasonable $10.90, good value for the amount and quality of food I received. I’ll definitely be back to give it another whirl, and to try that java French toast.
A good morning for mamas, indeed.