Ya Mamma's Authentic Italian Cuisine
75 Daniel Webster Highway
Merrimack, NH 03054
Date Visited: Several times since January 2002; most recently May 7, 2005
Type of Eatery: Sit-down Italian restaurant.
What I usually order:
APPETIZER: Tomato and Gorgonzola Bruschetta, $6.95
SALAD: House salad with gorgonzola dressing (comes with entree)
ENTREE: All of their entrees are fantastic, but a personal favorite is their Vegetable Lasagna ($13.95) with Fra Diavolo sauce.
I also recommend the Verdura and Ya Mamma's style dishes, the Tortellini di Roma, the Fettucini Alfredo, and the Calamari Fra Diavolo. And really, pretty much everything else. Prices can be found on the web site.
DESSERT: Tiramisu Roll (price unlisted on web site) or Cannolis with Oreo Filling (price unlisted)
I should mention at the start that I am terribly, terribly biased when it comes to this restaurant. It is my favorite restaurant on earth, and I love it so much that I asked the chef to cater my wedding. (He did, and it was fabulous, darling.)
My love affair with Ya Mamma's began in January 2002, eight months before my wedding, when my father took me there to taste their wonderful cuisine. He insisted on ordering the tomato and gorgonzola bruschetta for an appetizer, and so we did, even though I had my doubts; normally, when a restaurant serves bruschetta, it turns out to be a piece of cold, stale bread, toasted to the point of becoming rock-hard, with a couple of pieces of tomato on top. However, I took one bite of Ya Mamma's bruschetta and knew in that instant that I wanted to have this food at my wedding reception. I had a Brigham Young moment: THIS IS THE PLACE.
The bread part of the dish is not too thick or too thin, and perfectly warmed--not steaming hot, but not cold, either. There are lots of finely chopped tomatoes on the top and just the right amount of gorgonzola, olive oil, and basil. It is perfection, and if you ever say anything bad about it, I will cut you.
I believe that all the entrees come with a salad, and fortunately you can't go wrong here, either. The Caesar salad is excellent and can be ordered with or without anchovies (I do "without"); I used to get it all the time until I discovered Ya Mamma's gorgonzola dressing. (They also have a creamy Italian dressing, a balsamic vinaigrette, and of course Caesar, but with the gorgonzola around I no longer care.) I was expecting something quite heavy and creamy, but it's surprisingly light: the dressing captures all the wonder of gorgonzola without becoming overwhelming or, God forbid, one of those dressings that has more in common with cream soup than something one puts on a salad. It also is perfection. Bravo, Ya Mamma's.
I've eaten at Ya Mamma's many times with my family, and none of us has ever had anything that wasn't delicious. My husband's personal favorite is the Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo, which he believes to be the best of its kind anywhere. My father's favorite is the Ya Mamma's Chicken, which is "sauteed in olive oil with mushrooms, flamed with Marsala wine and topped with prosciutto and Provolone cheese" and can also be ordered with veal or sirloin steak instead of chicken. For a while there, I was eating the Tortellini DiRoma ("cheese tortellini tossed with fresh cream, Romano cheese, broccoli florets, and prosciutto") as though my life depended on it--it has just the right amount of broccoli and prosciutto, and the cream sauce is fantastic (and VERY rich).
My personal favorite, though, is the Vegetable Lasagna. I prefer veggie lasagna to meat lasagna, but much to my chagrin I've found that most restaurants commit one of two sins when they make it. Sin #1 is making it mostly cheese with a couple of veggies thrown in for show (and no red sauce). If I wanted a big plate of ricotta with a couple of pasta noodles on the side, I would get that. Sin #2 is including zucchini as one of the vegetables; while I like to consider myself fairly open-minded when it comes to food, I cannot abide zucchini, which I sometimes refer to as the Squash of Satan.
Thankfully, Ya Mamma's vegetable lasagna commits neither of these sins. The vegetables (roasted red peppers, broccoli, Roma tomatoes, Portobello mushrooms, artichoke hearts, eggplant) are "al dente" and in just the right amounts--not too many, not too few. Ditto for the cheeses, and the pasta is always al dente as well. You can also choose either a regular marinara (always yummy) or the Fra Diavolo sauce, which is spicy and wonderful.
Ya Mamma's has an excellent dessert tray, but my personal favorites are the tiramisu roll and the oreo-filled cannolis. Instead of a more pudding-like tiramisu, Ya Mamma's makes theirs in a chocolate-covered roll and serves slices (you can see a picture of it here next to the "Decadent Desserts" heading). Again, just wonderful: each bite is excellent. The oreo-filled cannolis are NOT filled with ground-up Oreos mixed in with the regular filling, which is what I was expecting; instead, Ya Mamma's makes a creamy filling with tiny, tiny bits of chocolate cookie mixed in. The end result is perfectly smooth and sweet and, in my opinion, far superior to an oreo.
The service at Ya Mamma's tends to be excellent, with waiters who are friendly, knowledgeable, and prompt. (I've never felt abandoned by my server, unlike my experience in certain other restaurants.) The restaurant is also a lot bigger than it seems outside, with seating in an upstairs and a downstairs level; nonetheless, if you go for dinner, MAKE A RESERVATION. Ya Mamma's is becoming increasingly popular and hence increasingly full. The ambience is nice, with soft lighting (but not so soft I feel I have to squint), inviting colors, and Italian-themed signs and prints on the walls. My one complaint, though, is that the seating can make for close quarters during the dinner rush, and that means things can get loud. Not shrieking loud, not screaming-child loud (y'know, I have yet to experience even one screaming child there--woohoo!), but loud enough to be a bit distracting. I would love it if Ya Mamma's eventually opened up a larger place; as it stands, this factor is minor enough that it only takes down the rating by one-half star.
In conclusion: Ya Mamma's--oh, how I love thee.
Rating: ****½ (4.5 stars out of 5)
Would I eat there again: YES. God, YES.