Last weekend, my mom visited me. Despite having three of her four children move to cities that are far more engaging and entertaining than Detroit, my mother is a homebody. Like her mother before her, she is rooted in her Michigander routine — including daily visits to Nello’s, nightly yoga, with work and errands in between. That said, my mother has made it abundantly clear that she has no interest in New York beyond Ellis Island and the city’s many diners and dives.
I didn’t have time to plan a full-fledged itinerary, so instead, we had a walk-and-see kind of weekend. After spending an afternoon walking through Union Square Park and then down to SoHo, we wandered into Little Italy in search of a bite to eat.
Unlike many New Yorkers — native and transplanted — I love Little Italy. I don’t mind being flirted into a restaurant, because ultimately, I’ll have the last laugh on Yelp if I’m not satisfied with the food or the service — and in some cases with both.
After a few odd turns, we happened upon Mambo ‘talanio Ristorante & Piano Bar. We were seated quickly, but it took a bizarrely long amount of time to be recognized for water service and the delivery of a bread basket. Said bread basket was strike one against Mambo ‘taliano. I would be shocked if the bread was homemade. It was boring and commercial. Another strike – how can an Italian restaurant in Little Italy not have a fresh pepper grinder at the table, while providing me with fresh table-side olive oil and vinegar? #noexcuses
Famished and unsatisfied with the bread, we each ordered an appetizer. I had the olive miste, and she ordered fried calamari. I loved the olive dish – which was also served with some lightly marinated eggplant and roasted red peppers.
For the main course, we each opted for a pasta dish. I had the orechiette alla checca, which was really just orechiette with tomato sauce. Nothing too special. I am a big fan of orechiette noodles, as I find that they hold chunkier sauces like marinara and arrabiata quite well. My mom had the trenette al pesto. It was good, but in a “maybe I was craving that over this” kind of way.
The food was not super special. So far, I’m still more partial to Pellegrino’s and Da Nico when in Little Italy. As I’m watching my figure (down 26 pounds since early August!), I passed up the normally non-negotiable, super-indulgent trip to Ferrara that any trip to Little Italy merits.
Overall, the service was painfully slow, and the food was lackluster and non-competitive given the area. Not sure that I’d return.