Mamma Roma – Edinburgh Italian Restaurant
On the edges where the Omnicentre and Leith Walk meet, Mamma Roma, the long standing, family run Italian restaurant is quaintly yet magisterially placed. At first you may look past it, as the large building is striking in deep blue yet withdrawn; only the dark pillars jut out yet the entrance seems hard to make out at first. Only because Laurence and I were specifically looking for a place, did we notice that it was open, otherwise one might see the light bounce off its heavy stature and at first believe it to be closed. Having said that, there is an element of curiousity that one experiences when they see it. Our hungry stomachs – eyes searching everywhere – landed on this place for a reason. Although the nearby restaurants were light in colour, clean cut looking and clear, they seemed to lack that feeling of mystery and intimacy that Mamma Roma had from the first glance.
It’s unusual to see a restaurant which is at once so grand and yet unassuming. This creates the perfect balance for me as it emphasises its character and experience, without needing to reflect the frivolity of those other overdone and popular franchises. Before we even entered and learned it, we got the impression that it was a family run company. It has an element of authenticity that did not need to be advertised.
Mamma Roma has two buildings. One which is larger and vivid in dark blue, with a Roman statue in front of it, in pristine white, and another which seems like a little Italy café next to it, taken straight out of the streets of Parma. (Mamma Roma does translate to Mother Rome, however this little café looks like the cousin residing in a town in Parma. Still quaint and personal, but much lighter in colour and atmosphere.) There are posters all over, a menu stuck to the glass wall, where behind two little tables are hugging each other in a corner as though they are having their own little romance even when the people occupying them are not there.
We chose this one as we were feeling more casual, and it indeed suited the light feeling. As soon as we entered it was like visiting a family member who had been waiting for us with warm homemade Italian cooking. The gentle Italian music bended in the background, accompanying the light chatter of the few people that were there. The other reason I love this little Mamma Roma in particular, and perhaps something which still applies to its bigger version, is that it was not overcrowded. You could go somewhere to sit and eat something good, but also chat and feel like you can have an intimate conversation. As this was the last day before I left for a week trip away from Laurence, this aspect was important to us as we wanted to spend some quality time, and not just fill our empty stomachs.
It was certainly a place where you can reach over the table and hold the other person’s hand, but without feeling as though you are underdressed or that your feet need to be hurting in the process.
The best thing however about this place was the service. I have been to some places before which have had real Italian cooking, have had the authentic décor, however it has either been too busy and loud and thus the service has been rushed or pressured, or it has been laid back and the service has been lazy and indifferent. The lady who served us, who was a part of this family, gave me the most welcoming feeling. I am sometimes a shy person and hold back from asking about the details of a meal, out of fear of sounding demanding or complicated, and interrupting their natural ‘style’, however I had a conversation with her which made me feel like she had been waiting for me all day.
She was the nicest lady, who was not only so helpful, prompt, and understood so easily what I wanted, but also always greeted us with friendliness and was patient and polite. This leaves such an impression on me because going to a restaurant at the end of the day is not only an experience with the food, or the person you go with – it is also an experience with the chefs, the owners and the culture. It is nice to feel a part of it even just for an hour, before you come out and remember you are in fact in Edinburgh with the fresh cold air and Victorian high buildings. You want to be absorbed.
It being a restaurant, however, I must finally mention the food. Laurence and I both got something we wouldn’t usually get, and we both finished the plate clean. The portions were generous yet the quality remained completely uncompromised! The quality of the food was of the highest – comforting, yet light, fresh, delicate, yet full of flavour. It was presented immaculately, and with style. I have nothing but good things to say about it, and even after eating it, it left me with an incredibly warm and satisfying feeling rather than sluggish.
It was the one time that I wanted to stay for a ‘coffee’ even though I don’t drink it, but I couldn’t as we didn’t have enough time. Mamma Roma however treated us so well, served us amazing food which felt as though it was cooked with genuine care for the ingredients as well as for its customers, and we left feeling reenergized, both in body and soul. And finally I was able to have a good time with Laurence, and share that little romance where the tables hugged by the window.
P.S. As I left, I had forgotten my water bottle under my table next to the wall. I don’t know how the lady saw it, but seconds did not pass before she ran out to call for me to give me my water bottle. A place in which people are sweet both inside and out, is a definitely a place worth coming back to!
Laurence – As Nancie was going away to London for a week, we decided to go for an evening stroll across the city centre of Edinburgh together. After walking up and down the bustling streets, we came across a lovely Italian restaurant. We actually searched for a good half hour looking for a nice quiet place to eat! Sometimes it can be difficult to decide where and what and you want to eat!
However, as soon as we set foot in Mama Roma’s we were made to feel at home. As it was reasonably late for dinner (after 8pm) – the place itself was thankfully not filled with lots of hungry customers. Inside, there was a lovely rustic and homely feel to the restaurant. The food arrived quickly and looked fantastic. The waitress was extremely welcoming, and at the same time not too overbearing! I always hate when you are trying to enjoy dinner and the servers are constantly coming up to you making sure everything is okay! We were able to enjoy each other’s company in peace and I was able to discuss with Nancie how I was going to cope one week without her!
Our time at Mama Roma’s really did feel special – like we were in our own little world where we could express ourselves freely, enjoy the inviting atmosphere of an authentic style Italian restaurant, and of course fill our stomachs with delicious food!
Sometimes the best restaurants are the one’s you know nothing about. Our meal at Mama Roma’s was like when you visit the Cinema on a whim, and are memorised by a movie you didn’t even know existed! I’m sure a lot of couples have experienced the same feeling when you’re searching for a place to eat spontaneously. The unplanned nature of our visit to Mama Roma’s – the quality of the food, the great atmosphere, service and location shows that you can experience a great meal completely by chance 🙂