Name: Mama Giuseppa's
Location: 4 S. Liberty Ave., Endicott, NY 13760
Phone: (607) 748-7200
Price: Likely $20-$30 per person
Mama Giuseppa's is yet another entry in the long line of Italian restaurants that dot the landscape of the Triple Cities. This one is located on North St. in Endicott (technically a Liberty Ave. address), not far from the Cider Mill, and they've just celebrated their 10-year anniversary of being in business. It's a restaurant that I truly had not heard much about before we went, but based on things I'd read, those who like the place are staunch defenders of its low-key charm and home-style Italian eats. A Facebook page with over 500 supporters certainly seems to support this notion.
The restaurant itself is a fairly small space with somewhere around six to eight booths along the right hand side and 15-20 tables toward the back. It's a clean space and the atmosphere gives off the vibe that you're eating in someone's kitchen; the decor is quaint and homey with all sorts of family photographs on the walls, and there was some 1940's big-band music piping through the speakers. On atmosphere alone, it is somewhat reminiscent of both Frank's out in Maine, and Johnson City's Cacciatore's.
We took a minute to look through the menu before placing our orders, and found it to be rather extensive. All the traditional Italian pasta favorites are accounted for, in addition to many different chicken, veal, and seafood dishes, and they double as a pizzeria as well. I opted to go with the lasagna ($10.99) and added both a meatball and a sausage ($1.25 each); on the recommendation of the waitress, Megan went with the Shrimp Scampi ($15.99) served over penne. Entrees come with a house salad (we added the bleu cheese crumbles for $1 each) and complimentary garlic knots.
The salad, with its homemade Italian dressing, was a decent start to the meal, but nothing to get excited about. It featured the standard greens, tomato, onion, cucumber, and olives. The Italian dressing was a tasty balsamic vinegar-based topper and the bleu cheese crumbles were a solid add-on. The garlic knots, what I perceive to be a specialty at Mama Giuseppa's, were quite excellent.
The first thing we noticed about our entrees was the sheer enormity. The lasagna was easily two full portions in size, if not four. The shrimp scampi certainly wasn't skimpy either. We admired the presentation of the dishes, finding it to be in line with the aforementioned home-style ambiance. Aside from the fact that that the lasagna was a little crusty and burnt around the edges, as you can see above.
The lasagna was very good, with thick, sweet red sauce, flavorful beef, and a fairly thick layer of mozzarella. It wasn't the best lasagna I've had in the area (that title would go to Frank's), but it was tasty, and the leftover half will make for a good dinner tomorrow night as well. I tried out Megan's scampi and found it to be only average--nowhere near the amazing scampi at the Oaks Inn (which Megan and I have vowed to visit again very soon). The shrimp were good, but the dish was somewhat lacking in flavor beyond oil and garlic; some fresh herbs might have taken the dish to the next level. For its faults, it was still a decent dish--but I doubt that either of us would order it next time.
Since we both stopped short of finishing our enormous portions, we left a little room for dessert and opted to split a cannoli, as has seemed to become the custom in our visits to the area's Italian restaurants. I will say that the dessert menu at Mama Giuseppa's was totally up my alley, and everything on the dessert tray looked really great, including a peanut butter pie that I was *this* close to persuading Megan to order instead. But she had her heart set on the cannoli, and it ended up being an excellent choice, a great, flaky warmed pastry with cheese filling that rates favorably among the desserts we've had recently. Certainly a fine way to end a fine meal.
All things considered, I thought Mama Giuseppa's was certainly worth visiting. It has a casual, neighborhood atmosphere, good service, and the home-style food is pretty solid. I am interested in trying the pizza, which I have heard good things about. Based on this visit, I don't think Mama Giuseppa's is exceptional in any way (aside from portion size), and I doubt we'll head there often because the similar and superior Cacciatore's is closer to where we live, but it's a solid entrant to the area's Italian scene. It's definitely a notch above the celebrated-yet-overrated Consol's.