After being on the road for awhile I finally found myself back in town for a couple weeks. So, I took the opportunity to give my friend Rob a call to meet up for dinner. After a little bit of debating, we decided to meet at Mamma Melina’s near U Village which was right in between the two of us. Normally, an Italian establishment is not the type of place to go to when on Phase 1 of the P90X nutrition program when you are looking for low carb and low fat options (the love of pasta and olive oil make it difficult…). But after a menu check, I found a couple things that looked like they would be ok. So we went for it.
The original Mamma Melina’s was located in an older building in the U-District. It was small and intimate with opera singers and piano players and all the ambiance. Or at least that’s what I’ve been told as I never actually made it there. But, when they saw an opportunity to move down closer to U Village (a decidedly more upscale type neighborhood), they took it. The new Mamma Meilna’s is in a large, open space on the bottom floor of the Merrill Gardens at University building (which is actually owned by the company one of my good friends works for). Interesting side note…Merrill Gardens specializes in retirement communities, and in fact all of the living spaces above the retail locations are retirement apartments. However, with places like Mamma Melina’s, Urbanity clothing, Shun Japanese restaurant, etc. the retail environment is definitely younger attracting the college student and young professional at the same time. I find it to be an interesting, but effective, dichotomy (and yes, I plan on charging him for that little promotion…).
Anyway, back to Mamma Melina’s. The space is wide open wilth plenty of seating on the patio for the seemingly rare nice day. There are large garage doors that open allowing a cool breeze to pass through. The seating and decor is very modern, but on the ceilings you find artwork that is a bit more of a throwback. Rob and I took a seat in the bar at one of the high and narrow tables. He had already eaten so decided to just partake in the vino (which he reported was very good), and I ordered my water with lime…regular water, no more tonic or club or bubbly stuff. For dinner, I had to skip over all of the delicious looking pizza and pasta dishes, as well as the lamb shank with a gorgonzola polenta (I will be back for that!) to finally land on the Pollo Ai Carciofi. I threw in an order of sautéed spinach to try and get my green vegetable level up.
The Pollo Ai Cafciofi is a chicken breast served with artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes. It also came with two pieces of asparagus and a roasted red pepper…I think more for color to liven the presentation than anything else. Looking at the dish, I could tell that the was a fair amount of oil used, so I would just have to do my best to not lick it off the plate, but still enjoy my meal at the same time. And I will say, it was good. The chicken was nicely cooked…just short of being overcooked, just past perfect. It was still moist though. And both the artichoke and tomato added a bit of a sharp, slightly acidic bite to the dish that really made the flavors a lot more vibrant. Getting too much or not enough of the accoutrements threw it off a little, but when you got that perfect balance of tomato, artichoke and chicken, it was excellent. As for the spinach…it was wilted nicely, and as long as I left the bottom layer which had absorbed most of the oil, I was doing ok staying within my diet.
We ended up staying for a little while, just catching up, relaxing and people watching. The location is definitely nice, and the food was good. Sometimes there was just a little too much artichoke, and there was definitely a lot of olive oil used, but the flavors were nice and vibrant. I can say for certain that had I not been on P90X, or even if I was further along into the later phases where a few more carbs are allowed, I wouldn’t have selected what I did. But I did enjoy my meal, and my time spent out, and would recommend that if you find yourself shopping at U Village to take a short walk and check it out.