Mamma Martino’s is a neighbourhood fixture that’s been serving up homey Italian on the Queensway for more than 37 years.
If you’re looking for pure nonna nostalgia, this Etobicoke classic will not leave you hanging.
What started as a humble 30-seater with a shop attached has expanded over the years into a sprawling five-room affair, covered wall-to-wall with family photos, where generations of regulars and delighted first-timers congregate over panzerotti and housemade build-your-own pizza.
Like any good Italian joint, the restaurant is an ode to the Martino family matriarch.
Before Bruno Martino opened Mamma’s in 1983, his parents ran a variety store on this property for 20 years, selling jars of pasta sauces and convenience store goods.
After his father retired, Bruno decided to move into the restaurant business with his mom’s recipes, eventually taking over the neighbouring properties to include gardens, an outdoor patio, and a driveway-turned-solarium seating area.
Regardless of what day it is, chances are it’ll be packed in here — except for Sundays and a whole 12 days during Christmas time, “because family,” says Bruno matter-of-factly (though Halloween is definitely an occasion with the Martinos).
It’s hard to resist a menu of cantina faves where almost every item, even the entrees, averages around $11.
You’ll likely be seated by a 14-year-old host with great skater boy hair (it seems to be a prerequisite here).
Don’t start off your meal without an order of the Chef’s Salad ($5.75). This seemingly-simple dish of greens is doused in Martino’s special vinaigrette — which they don’t sell by the bottle anymore, unfortunately — made with garlic and parsley.
A veal parm sandwich ($6.75) is a handful of bread, gooey cheese, and veal cutlets. It’s a popular lunch option but can easily knock you out for dinner.
Pizzas range from a small 6-piece for $10.95 to a large 10-slice for $16.
It's extra for additional ingredients, which run the gamut from ricotta cheese and mushrooms to prosciutto and roasted red peppers.
Penne al bruno ($11.75) lives up to all our expectations, with tomato cream sauce, ham, and parmesan cheese.
Same goes for a perfectly textured carbonara ($11.25) served with bacon, parm, eggs and cream.
Nothing says 'nonna' more than lasagna ($11.75). Mamma’s version is a melty, layered pile of ground beef, cheese, and tomato sauce.
Like everything else, house wine is dangerously affordable: a glass of red is $7.50, though there’s something about this boisterous place that makes a litre ($35.95) feel apropos.
Next to us, a man who’s been here three times this week leans over and generously offers to help us finish our carafe, if necessary.
And at the suggestion of the lady chiming in behind us, we get an order of an apple caramel cheesecake ($6.75), which is a generous caramelly slice served with whipped cream.
A family affair until the end, the influx of new condos around this neck of the woods suggests Mamma Martino’s will stay converting generations of young families into regulars for years to come.