Well, here we are back at the Marketplace at Dr. Phillips. It seems there has been more restaurant happenings here lately than anywhere else in Central Florida. Just last week I told you about El Inka Grill, a new Peruvian outpost, and before that we were at Bistro Le Coq au Vin Dr. Phillips. There was a nod to Jamba Juice (no, that wasn’t Adele you spotted there), and, just next door at Dellagio, we visited the new Urbain 40.
But this is, after all, part of Restaurant Row, so we expect a lot of activity.
This time it’s Mama Louise, a red-checkered tablecloth restaurant in the New York Italian vein. It occupies the space that had been Cariera’s, a similar style restaurant. I wonder if there is something in the strip mall’s deed restrictions that says this particular storefront must be occupied by an Italian restaurant — it’s been several over the years. Does anyone remember when Enzo Perlini opened a more casual, pizza centric version of his popular Longwood restaurant? That was in 1992. Before that it was called Donato’s. The owner of that restaurant ran into a bit of trouble that involved a baseball bat, as I recall.
But back to Mama Louise.
This is a project of Joe Esposito and is an homage to his mother, who is depicted on the website next to the words “Shut up and Eat!” It makes me teary eyed for the memory of my own mother.
The menu has no surprises — these are the same dishes that have been served at this address for decades, with varying degrees of success. Scampis, Alfredos, Carbonaras, Marsalas. If you’re looking for creativity you won’t find it here.
But the food is all perfectly fine. I had the Mama Louise Baked Lasagna (you hardly ever come across sauteed or deep-fried lasagna). It was a big brick of pasta sheets layered with a blend of sausage and ground beef, ricotta cheese, and a thick marinara sauce. Nicely seasoned and certainly filling, and more satisfying than sous vide lasagna.
My lunch companion had the Chicken Limone, a couple of thinly pounded cutlets sauteed in a lush lemony butter sauce with capers and served with a stack of cheese-laced fettuccine.
I thought the $14 for the lasagna was a tad more than it should have been but the $13.50 for the limone a good deal. Neither one is a bank-breaker, though.
Service could use some polish, but that’s a broken record statement for restaurants these days.
Mama Louise is a big place — not the intimacy of a neighborhood place like, say, Lido’s. But with the closing of Lido’s, it’s nice to know that there will still be places to get good, consistent traditional Amer-Ital dishes.
Mama Louise is at 7600 Dr. Phillips Blvd., Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-345-1000.