After battling the Kingsford stretch of the eyesore that is Gladys Berejiklian’s incompatible, delayed, and over-budget light rail disaster, it was a relief to finally sink into our table at Mamma Teresa, right beside a beautiful tank of fish.
Along with a trio of goldfish, this eye-catching tank - which doubles as a transparent room divider separating diners from the pizza kitchen - is full of hardy African fishes.
Watching multitudes of babies swim about feels curiously reassuring, perhaps because one suspects that if a restaurant can keep a fish tank so healthy, they might keep their kitchen in a similar condition.
I’m also reassured by diners at the next table, who, upon seeing me photograph my entree, lean over and volunteer that “it tastes as good as it looks.” They’re locals and regulars, and some friendly conversation ensues.
Mamma Teresa has existed in this spot for more than forty years. Mahyar Kianfar (Kian) took it over a few years ago, but kept the name, and is proud of the restaurant's history as “the first Italian restaurant in the Eastern Suburbs.” Kian has ensured a smooth ownership transition by retaining the same chef who has cooked at Mamma Teresa for the last eight years.
Together they have opted to keep a wide menu of Italian classics, like rough, hand-made gnocchi, which you can opt to eat as creamy Carbonara ($14.50/entrée). With pepper and extra cheese added at the table, my only complaint was this well-cooked pasta dish arrived a lot faster than our wine!
After a gentle nudge, my rogue Lawson Dry Hills Pinot Rose ($7/glass) arrived just as I finished scraping up the remaining skerricks of creamy sauce flavoured with bacon, shallots and egg using crisp Garlic Bread ($5.50).
Pale pink and dry, the rose is an easy-to-drink, fruit-driven drop, which impresses more than a Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio ($8.50/glass) that's a bit acidic and golden apple-heavy for me.
These characteristics do help to cut through the grease on the remaining portion of our antipasti Chorizo & Halloumi ($14.90). The deep-fried and overwhelmingly salty cheese was a bit of a surprise on this dish. I found it dominated the tasty, pan-fried chorizo cooked with rosemary, garlic, chilli and lemon, and there weren't enough leaves to balance it.
Rosemary was also well-employed in Veal Romano ($23.90) where two thin slices of tasty, crumbed veal were adorned with silky pink folds of ultra-thin leg ham, with a black pepper and white wine sauce rounding out the dish.
Grain-fed Eye Fillet ($28.90) is well-rested and insanely tender under a good green pepper sauce dotted with whole green peppercorns. We both opt for salad as our meal accompaniment, which is crisp, and generously proportioned. It’s dressed in quite a vinegary way that helps to cut through the creamy pepper sauce. Capsicum proves a particular delight, though produce quality is good across the board.
While the dishes here don’t look flash, they offer up good technique for a decent price, which makes Mamma Teresa an easy favourite for locals. While the light rail destruction does make the view out the front windows a bit of a write-off, in the rear Martine Emder’s seaside mural painted back in 1998 has an almost luminous quality that from a distance fools the eye into thinking it’s a seaward window. Until Gladys Berejiklian finally gets it done, this illusion of tranquility will have to suffice.
412 Anzac Parade, Kingsford
Ph: (02) 9663 5031