It was strange seeing Mamma Mia stripped down, not a table nor chair in sight, pizza boxes piled up high to the ceiling.
Usually a hive of activity full of laughing families and bustling staff, there is rarely a table to be had for love nor money. Summertown’s Mamma Mia really is that rare breed – an authentic neighbourhood restaurant – and much loved because of it.
You can go there, eat well and have a good time regardless of whether you’ve got a noisy family, young children, sulky teenagers, clumsy grandparents. All are loved here.
But not today Josephine. Instead the Mamma Mia ‘takeaway station’ takes pride of place in the centre of the room, complete with the lovely Eric issuing instructions.
It was fairly self explanatory when we arrived on South Parade to pick up our four takeaway pizzas. Park, walk in, stand socially distanced as laid out on the sticker floor, give them your name, wait a few minutes, order issued, out, home.
It’s standard procedure, except that going anywhere at the moment is so much stranger than normal, and thus getting a takeaway is much more of a treat.
In short, we couldn’t blimmin’ wait to get our chops around a bona fide Mamma Mia pizza at long last. We’d missed them.
Racing back to the car and haring home (there is a delivery service too) we literally ran into the house and got stuck in.
And we weren’t disappointed. As juicy and succulent as we’d remembered, our pizzas had just the right doughy texture, a thin base with those wonderful burnt puffy bits on the sides, a wonderfully, garlicky, rich tomato sauce, generous toppings. It had it all going on.
The pepperoni on the Americana Hot is thick with spices and fennel, the Vegetariana is packed with goodies, the buffalo mozzarella in the Margherita di buffalo crude (with tomato sauce, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil & oregano) almost wet it’s so moist and gooey. I mean take a look, you would wouldn’t you!
Plus you can have all your favourite bits to munch on too – the infamous garlic bread with melted mozzarella, the Mamma Mia salad complete with tomatoes, avocados, huge slices of mozzarella, red onion, cucumber, olives, lettuce and a vibrant creamy dressing.
And who can resist the fried zucchini sticks? Crispy, crunchy, thick courgette slices which you dunk unceremoniously in the thick tomato sauce.
All washed down with a couple of Peroni beers and orange San Pellegrinos picked up from the ‘takeaway station’ on our way out.
It came as little surprise then to hear from Eric that Mamma Mia’s has been selling more pizzas and pasta since they reopened their takeaway service a few weeks ago, than when fully open.
Such has been the demand, that the second Mamma Mia branch in Jericho then needed to then reopen as well, just to cope with the sheer demand.
“Opening both branches isn’t what we expected but the chefs just couldn’t keep up with the demand here or make the pizzas quickly enough,” Eric said beckoning behind him as the chefs twirled and fashioned the dough through the kitchen window like windmills.
“So going forward, we will look at a way to supply both our eat-in and eat-out customers with the volume they require,” Eric said.
Either way it’s great for business, and great news that one of Oxford’ stalwart and most famous pizzas is going great guns during the most difficult periods in the history of hospitality. ‘Mamma Mia’ indeed.