What if you're a celiac, or gluten-sensitive and crave good old-fashioned Italian food - pasta, ziti, ravioli, pizza and the like? Well deprive yourself no more! Mama's Italian Restaurant (1352 Montauk Highway in Oakdale, NY (631-567-0909; www.mammas-restaurant.com) offers THE BEST Italian food around. Their amazingly extensive menu has over 100 delicious gluten-free dishes including pastas, pizzas, desserts and kid's meals - all gluten-free!
John & Teresa Passafiume are the current owners took over the restaurant about 9 years ago from the original owner who started the establishment in the 1970's. John says he started offering gluten-free items about 7 years ago. "I wanted to help people. I heard that more and more people were becoming gluten-sensitive so I decided offering gluten free pastas and pizza." Mamma's Italian Restaurant underwent extensive renovations to become gluten-free - John even keeps the cooking utensils separate so there's no cross contamination between the regular food and the gluten-free ingredients.
John says a couple recently came into his restaurant. A man was waving him over rather excitedly so John thought there may be a problem. The woman at the table had tears in her eyes. "I just want you to know, you changed our lives," the man said. "My wife is a celiac, and we could never go out to eat before. I've been looking for place to go out, have a nice romantic meal, give my wife a break from cooking. Thanks for all this!"
John was one of the first to offer gluten-free cannolis on Long Island. He admits learning to bake and cook gluten-free took a lot of reading and experimentation. "A lot of experimenting," he laughs. But word has spread quickly. John says gluten-free enthusiasts have been making up fliers about his restaurant and spreading the word like wildfire. And for good reason. He takes the whole gluten-free issue very seriously. "I will not buy from suppliers who can not give me a written guarantee that the ingredients they sell me are 100% gluten-free and not cross-contaminated with gluten particles in any way what so ever," he says. From being featured in "The Gluten-Free Bible," to being profiled on "Glutenfreeeasy.com, Mama's Italian restaurant is gaining wide acclaim as a gluten-free mecca.
John says he also gets customers from around the country visiting his restaurant. "One man who lived in Nevada and was visiting relatives on Long Island asked me to make a bunch of pies and freeze them so he could take them back home with him on the plane." The gluten-free side of the business has gone so well, John will soon be shipping out orders. He plans to freeze his gluten free pasta dishes, pies and desserts and ship them anywhere he gets the request from.
Mama's Italian Restaurant is definitely not your ordinary Italian restaurant/pizzeria. While there's a good selection of regular food on the menu, a vast and delicious gluten-free menu awaits you - everything from gluten-free specialty pizzas and pies featuring typical toppings like cheese, mushrooms, black olives, pepperoni, spinach, onions, peppers, broccoli and meatballs (a Mama's Gluten Free Everything pie is only $15). There's also gluten-free foccacia, Baked Ziti mini pies, White and Margherita pies and more. John's home-made pie sauces are very "tomato-ey," rich and thick.
As for dinners, the wide selection makes it impossible to make your mind up (that's why several trips back to Mama's is in order). Come during Pasta Night Mon-Thurs. after 4:00 pm, eat-in dining room only and get a gluten-free entree, served with a glass of wine or soda, a salad, coffee/tea and a gluten-free cheesecake or cannoli all for $16.95. A nice accent includes homemade gluten-free bread (eat all you want, it just keeps coming out); the homemade gluten-free salad dressings are out of this world delicious. Try the balsamic vinaigrette. The house salad includes generous portions of lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers, plus, roasted peppers, steamed string beans, giardiniera (pickled veggies Italian style).
A sampling of Dinner entrees for Gluten-Free Pasta Night include: Ziti Alfredo, Spaghetti Carbonara, Filetto di Pomodoro (Plum marinara with prosciutto and onion), Ziti Monte (chicken in creamy parmesean and pesto sauce) Spaghetti Piselli (fresh tomatoes and peas sauted in white wine sauce).
Other entrees (not included on the Pasta Night menu) are: Chicken Piccata, Veal Piccata, Eggplant Rollatini, Stuffed Peppers, Pasta Putanesca and Pasta Montanara (sun dried tomatoes, broccoli, grilled chicken sauteed in garlic and oil). There are also gluten-free lasagna, raviolis, manicotti, gnocchi and baked ziti for traditionalists who like to keep it simple. You can have any dish in a red or white sauce, or really any way you want it. Just ask Chef John. There's also a gluten-free Kids Menu (gluten free spaghetti with butter or marinara, Chicken Parmigiana, chicken fingers and other selections). Leave room for dessert - you won't want to pass up the gluten-free home-made Italian cheesecake, cannoli, rice pudding or Flourless Chocolate Tart! There's also Mango Sherbet.
For a complete selection of gluten-free menu items visit www.mamas-restaurant.com. For directions or phoning in your order for take out, please call 631-567-0909. Mama's Italian Restaurant is located at 1352 Montauk Hwy in Oakdale, across from the Oakdale train station and is their only location.