|Restaurant:||Mama Ricotta’s Restaurant|
|Location:||601 South Kings Street
|Rating:||5 out of 5 spoons|
Mama Ricotta’s is one of the Queen City’s crown jewels. The service is warm and attentive, the atmosphere is charming and comfortable, and, most importantly, the food is expertly crafted and delicious. The unassuming little restaurant, tagged onto the corner of a hodgepodge strip of shops, is absolutely one of Charlotte’s best dining experiences. And in case you haven’t gotten the point yet: GO EAT THERE IMMEDIATELY.
Mike and I visited Mama Ricotta’s last night and had a fantastic meal. The first arrival at our table was a basket of six (generous!) hot, soft rolls. They had just a touch of garlic and herbs and we dipped them into a plate of warm olive oil with red pepper flakes. They were so good that I had two (okay, when all was said and done, maybe it was three). I should have been saving room for the rest of the insane amount of food we ordered, but what can I say! I’m not good at resisting temptation when it comes to garlic bread. At any rate, make sure to save some rolls for sopping up your pasta sauce later.
Mama Ricotta’s garlic rolls
For our appetizer, we chose the Warm Goat Cheese and Mascarpone Dip, which was luxurious and out-of-this-world delicious. Imagine hunks of fresh, creamy goat and mascarpone cheeses on a platter. Now imagine steaming tomato-basil sauce poured generously over that cheese and crisp grilled crostini for sopping it all up. I almost cried, it was so good. Mike was so ecstatic about it that I gave him my last crostini just to watch him sop with joy! It takes a special girlfriend to do something like that, Mike!
Mama Ricotta’s Warm Goat Cheese and Mascarpone Dip
Mike selected the Canneloni al Forno for his entrée and was very pleased. I love when entrées come to your table in the dish they were prepared in; it adds to the fresh, homemade feeling. Mike’s canneloni was stuffed with chicken, spinach, and ricotta cheese, baked in béchamel sauce and topped with tomato-basil sauce. It was a generous portion with a comforting and rich flavor. While tasting it (repeatedly . . . thanks Mike!), I found I wanted a little more standout flavor in there. Something to “pop,” or maybe even just a dash more salt to enhance the sweetness of the tomato. Something! But that might be because I ordered such a dynamic entrée myself.
Mama Ricotta’s Canneloni al Forno
The star entrée at our table, in my opinion, was my Penne, Broccoli, and Chicken (although Mike liked his Canneloni better . . . typical). The penne was tossed with roasted chicken and broccoli in a lemon cream sauce. I was so impressed with this dish! At many restaurants pasta flavors seem to meld and muck together and you just get a general “tomato” or “cream” taste. Not so with my penne pasta. The perfect hint of lemon and garlic in the cream sauce made the pasta vibrant and bright; it almost dances in your mouth! The sauce had a light consistency to match its flavor.
Mama Ricotta’s Penne, Broccoli, and Chicken
There were several dessert options that sounded amazing (a nutella pie with hazelnut and chocolate, a triple layered carrot cake with caramel, tiramisu) but we chose the Strawberry Cobbler. Like Mike’s canneloni, this arrived at our table in the ramekin in which it was baked, piping hot with a scoop of fresh mascarpone ice cream and a plump strawberry on top. The berries in the cobbler weren’t syrupy or sugary like they are at some restaurants, but baked to a soft sweetness. The crust on top was good but I wish there had been more of it to offset the fruit — maybe a wider, shallower ramekin? At any rate, the dessert was my second favorite part of the meal (after the fabulous appetizer!). I guess I have to note that Mike disagreed with me about the cobbler (not all of us can be experts with amazing taste). He thought it was too sweet. I wish he’d have told me this BEFORE I let him have the last few bites! Sometimes I’m TOO nice.
Mama Ricotta’s Strawberry Cobbler
Apart from the delicious food, the environment at Mama Ricotta’s is perfect for date night. Paintings of everything from pasta to an Italian street scene to a reinterpretation of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam adorn the walls. Lighting is romantic-dinner dim, not can’t-see-your-date-even-if-you-squint dim. There’s a cute patio if you’re into dining al fresco. The menu also includes the option of eating family-style, where large dishes of your entrée of choice arrive at the table to be shared, making for a more intimate experience.
Service was another wonderful facet of our visit to Mama Ricotta’s. Our server detailed the drink and dinner specials (including the prices, which was appreciated — I hate it when they leave those off because of a mistaken assumption that mentioning cost is tacky or insulting) and was extremely prompt and friendly. She even labeled my take-out box with the dish and date. Now that’s service! Shout-out to Lindsay for making our meal a great experience!
With the amazing and generous Italian fare, the sophisticated atmosphere, and the attentive servers, you may assume that Mama Ricotta’s will cost you a pretty penny. In actuality, the prices are surprisingly reasonable! Many of the gourmet pasta options fall within the $10-13 range, and everything I tasted left me with no doubt that even the more expensive dishes are worth the price. In short, lovely Charlotte Spooners, Mama Ricotta’s Restaurant is one of the best places to spend your brunch, lunch, or dinner in Charlotte.
Have you experienced the love of Mama Ricotta’s Restaurant? What’s your favorite dish? Share your thoughts by clicking on the “Comments” link below.