San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Mama’s Place: Home-Style Cooking

A FAVORITE restaurant of minerecently underwent new ownership andgained a new chef. The service is still good,as is the food, but the portions are smaller,the bread is not of the same quality and thecomplimentary plate previously offered isnow nonexistent.Often, repeated visits to eateries are adisappointment as management changesrarely seem to be for the best.Mama’s Place on the other hand, continuesunder the iron hand of Piera Silvestri.For more than 15 years, her restaurants inthe heart of San José have maintained theirquality and low prices thanks to her management.I am a fan of what used to be called home-style cooking, whichmeans large portions. I prefer a restaurant where the food is generous– where you ask for a doggie-bag and the food isn’t artisticallyarranged with wide spaces between the small portions of meatand the spoonfuls of vegetables.Although it opens the doors at 7:30 a.m., lunch is the main businessof Mama’s Place where many white-collar workers and areabusiness executives join knowing expatriates for one of the dailyspecials. At about ¢2,500 ($5.58) the specials include a bountifulmain plate, fruit drink and small dessert. There is an eight-pagemenu offering many Italian and other dishes, and a variety ofsandwiches, but at a busier lunchtime it’s better to stick to one offour featured specials.THE specials change daily. In fact, you can eat at Mama’sPlace for a month and not eat the same thing twice. Normally thereis a pasta dish, a meat selection, an offering featuring fish and achicken-based plate.The pasta can include spaghetti with chicken or goulash, gnocchior lasagna. The lasagna (meat, chicken or vegetable) is availablemainly on Fridays, the Northern Italian way with a bechamelsauce and is invariably delicious.The fish could be grilled one day, baked or stuffed the next andvaries from dorado to marlin or corvina. The chicken is sometimesgrilled, sometimes stuffed with ham and cheese or served in fajitas.The meat dishes usually feature beef – cordon blue or tongue insauce. Pork is thrown in the mix too with pork chops, pork in sauce,and on rare occasions, veal in a succulent stew or roasted.Main courses are listed on the menu with accompanying sidedishes. This is one of the few eateries in town where you select theitems you prefer to accompany your meals.FRESHLY made focaccia is usually available at no charge(repeat servings are usually presented without asking). Mama’sfocaccia is in the Genovese tradition – doughy rather than flaky andmade with garlic and rosemary.Three soups are offered on a daily basis (at about ¢800 or$1.78) and I recommend for those with big appetites. The seafoodsoup is exceptional, with large chunks of squid, calamari and otherfish. Other soups include minestrone, chicken soup or onion soup.Mama’s has been featured in a number of guidebooks throughoutthe decade, but the repeated presence of area workers is yourassurance of quality food and reasonable prices.MAMA’S Place is open 7:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Monday-Friday,and closes at 4 p.m. on Saturdays. Mama’s Place is located on Ave.1, between Calle Central and Ca. 2. There are a number of parkinglots in the area and most bus lines to town will leave you within afew blocks of the restaurant.Call 223-2270 for more info.

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