Best Kept Secret In North Goa
Now here’s a surprise in North Goa. There are a number of Italian food options available in this particular corner of our planet, ampoule and some actually quite good. What we didn’t expect, there however, when we visited Mamma Mia, the Italian eatery at Resort Rio on the banks of the Baga River, was that the quality of food here would deserve a spot right at the top of the Best-Italian-Food-in-Goa list.
When it comes to depth of flavor, authenticity, creativity and presentation, Mamma Mia’s offerings are top notch, and when we say that, we mean by international standards. What we liked best about Chef Murugesan Perumal’s creations was that they reflected a commitment to “home-cooked” Italian food, the kind you get at the real “mamma mia’s” house in Sicily. This is not “concept Italian”, contemporary takes on old recipes, or “minimalist Italian”, dollops of this or that requiring a microscope to detect. Good, hearty, “real” Italian food is supposed to not just please your palate, but to warm your heart and soul as well. Chef Perumal’s does.
Let’s take a few of the dishes we sampled to explain what we mean.
The Linguine Con Frutti Di Mare, a classic dish found throughout Italy, contains king prawns, mussels, clams and squid in a tomato sauce with garlic, white wine and parsley. Mamma Mia’s menu describes the dish as “vibrant” and “colourful” and the tomato sauce as “rich.” All this is true, of course, but what the menu doesn’t state is that this particular dish, if served in one of the finest restaurants in Rome itself, would hold its own and definitely NOT be laughed out of town. That says a lot for a restaurant 6,500 kilometres away from Italy, on the edges of the sub-continent!
The same holds true for the Penne with Squids and Tomato and the Rigatoni Al Manzo Piccante (baked rigatoni pasta with ragu, beef meatballs, green chillies, fire-roasted red peppers, white wine and caramalised onions, topped with mozzarella cheese). With a single bite, one can taste the painstaking efforts that went into making these dishes as delightful as they are. If you’re Italian, it’s not unlike what you might expect from Mamma Mia – My Mama – a woman who never just goes through the motions and who always cooks with love and a joyous heart. Ok, so in this case your mama’s not a gray-haired Italian lady, but an Indian dude named Murugesan. But make no mistake, the love and joyous heart are there. You can taste it in his food.
It seems we’ve gotten a bit ahead of ourselves here, jumping into the main courses before discussing the appetizers. The Prosciutto e Rucola, smoked prosciutto ham with peppery rocket, sliced chestnut mushroom and Parmesan cheese, was made with gorgeous imported ingredients that were a joy to behold. And the Calamari With Lime Dressing, grilled rings of calamari served on a bed of rockets with lime dressing, was another winner.
Now here’s an important point that needs to be mentioned. The official name of this restaurant is Mamma Mia Ristorante Italiano & Pizzeria. Note the final word. Yes, this place is, as much as anything else, a pizzeria, with pizzas made in a large, highly attractive stone oven with a circular dome that lights up in the night. We couldn’t try all the pizzas on the menu (there are a lot of them) but we did sample the Prosciutto e Bufala pizza, which is a stone-baked tomato and mozzarella pizza, finished with ripped buffalo mozzarella, smoked prosciutto, rocket and Calabrian oregano. This was one good pizza, folks. We mean it.
When we dined at Mamma Mia, we sat outside at night, overlooking one of the largest and most beautiful pools in Goa, in addition to the Baga River. Live music played in the background, and the feeling was actually quite magical.
Given the limitations of anatomy and appetite, there were quite a few dishes we would have love to have tasted but couldn’t. These include:
- BUTTERFLY KING PRAWNS
Butterfly king prawns oven-roasted with a slice of Italian artisan Altamura bread in garlic butter. Served sizzling in a skillet.
- RISOTTO GAMBERONI
Rich risotto with king prawn, courgette, tomato and a tasty kick of red chilli; garnished with a large, shell-on king prawn.
- TERRINA MEDITERRANEA
Chicken and king prawns casserole baked in tomato sauce with courgettes, butter beans, olives, red peppers, garlic and raisins, with a dash of white wine. Served with rosemary & sea salt bread.
- GRILLED PORK CHOPS
Tender grilled pork chops served with saute veggies and apple sauce
The dessert offerings ranged from Italian plum and pistachio tart to lemon meringue pie to honeycomb cheesecake to tiramisu to molten chocolate pudding with vanilla gelato. We went with the tiramisu and were NOT disappointed.
Kudos to Chef Perumal and his team at Mamma Mia for an unforgettable meal and evening. We WILL be back!
Resort Rio, Arpora, Bardez,
- +91 832 2267300