Thankfully, the beloved understands that temporary crushes on waitstaff and chefs (hi, Ian! … OK, that one has proved to be not so temporary) are just flotsam of Chow, Baby’s job.
Still, it’s still a little awkward when we’re sitting there in the loftlike space of Mamma Mia (3124 E. Belknap St.), and Nick and his piercing blue eyes stop by to check on us again and again. “Tell me what you want,” he says in his thick Kosovar accent. (Don’t know that one? It’s very similar to that Croatian doc on ER. Yeah, now you understand.) What Chow, Baby wants is a cozy weekend on a beach in Montenegro (well, Nick brought it up; Chow, Baby, working on a theory, had actually asked about Albania). What Chow, Baby ordered was more stuffed mushrooms ($6.95).
In fact, over three visits – true, Chow, Baby usually visits a restaurant just once before jumping to conclusions, but there were extenuating circumstances here – Nick made only one service-related mistake: attempting to clear a stuffed-mushroom plate before Chow, Baby had sopped up every last incredible cheesy, buttery, heavy-creamery drop. And that wasn’t even the peak of our meals. Mamma Mia’s menu is similar to all those moderately priced Italian restaurants run by handsome men with alluring Balkan accents: all kinds of pasta dishes ($6.50-$9); veal, chicken, and seafood entrées ($8-$15); and subs, pizza, and wings ($ reasonable). But here the execution is better than moderate; it’s the best Chow, Baby has had in quite some time. The basics are done right: Pasta is cooked perfectly, chicken is never rubbery, grilled shrimp slides right out of its shell. And the little extras, the attention to detail, make it all special – the peppery kick to the house Italian dressing, the ambrosial pink sauce (marinara with cream) over pasta, the thin crust on the “White Wonder” pizza (supporting cheese, garlic, tomatoes, and spinach). Yum.
Mamma Mia takes up most of the historic McAdams Building, whose recent renovation is part of the renaissance of Six Points, where Riverside, East Belknap, and Race streets intersect. Maybe it’s a little early for “renaissance,” as the main view through Mamma Mia’s huge windows is Mom’s Bail Bonds. But who cares, when the view is accompanied by housemade tiramisu ($3.50). Thankfully, the beloved also understands that dessert-hogging is part of Chow, Baby’s job.
So here’s Chow, Baby minding its own business, quietly enjoying a gyro at The Parthenon (401 N. Henderson St.). Chow, Baby’s main concern is whether $9.50 is too much to pay for a sandwich – but this is one fine fresh-grilled pita, overstuffed with beautifully seasoned meat and oozing brisk tzatziki. Hmmm. Let’s take another few bites.
Meanwhile – again let us stress, while minding its own business – Chow, Baby finally overheard something of interest: The Chatty Cathys at the next booth were asking the waitress about rumors of Parthenon’s impending demise! No! This is the best $9.50 gyro sandwich in town! And probably the best Greek/New Orleans restaurant for miles around. Chow, Baby summoned the waitress over, but got nothing but a deer-in-the-headlights look and a “Nothing’s been signed yet” denial. Chow, Baby hopes it ain’t so, but got a slice of bread pudding to go, just in case it would be the last. Pricey at $5.50, but worth it.
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