Chicken fettuccine alfredo comes with a salad and garlic bread.

More often than not, smaller, family-run restaurants tend to have a more appealing atmosphere, and Mama Mia Italiana’s is no exception. The restaurant is tucked into near obscurity within a shopping center on the cusp between The Woodlands and Magnolia, but those who bother seeking it out will find some pretty good—albeit pricey—Italian food and a relaxing environment.

Mama Mia Italiana's
30420 FM 2978, Ste. 300, Magnolia
281-419-7662
mamamiaitalianas.com

I have been to Mama Mia a couple of times now in pursuit of both good food and a casual atmosphere, and would go more often, but I found one obstacle that plagues many college students in my path: the prices. For what you get at Mama Mia, the amount you have to pay feels a little steep. For example, a regular salad, with all the embellishment you’d expect on a plain salad, exceeds $8—and the other items on the menu aren’t much better. Dinner entrees come with a smaller salad and a plate of garlic bread rolls, making it more worthwhile to just order a dinner entrée instead.

As for the menu itself, the ratio of dinner to lunch entrees is rather disproportionate. Italian food obviously rules the menu, with pizza, pasta, and calzones being the main attractions. If you’re not in the mood for Italian, though, Mama Mia also serves a small selection burgers, sandwiches, and wraps. This "American" side of the menu is served all day, though the Italian selections are somewhat limited during lunch. Dinner is really when Mama Mia pulls out all the stops, with a much more substantial menu in the evenings.

At dinner, I typically tuck into a plate heaped with fettuccine alfredo ($9.99) and grilled chicken (an additional $2.99) in a parmesan cream sauce, which—as an entrée—comes with a caesar salad and two garlic bread rolls. The salad is good enough, but the garlic bread comes practically drowning in melted butter, as if the meal weren't already artery-clogging enough. But hey—I always leave feeling full and satisfied, especially for $13.

Perhaps the most noticeable aspect about Mama Mia is its casual atmosphere. Here, you order at the counter, take a seat, and wait at your table for the food to be brought out to you. If it's your first time at Mama Mia—or if you're indecisive—it can be a little awkward standing around while you decide what to order, but rest assured that others have done the same awkward standing around over the years too and you're not alone.

In part due to its location, Mama Mia is also relatively quiet, which is perfect when you want to enjoy a meal in peace. Very rarely is the restaurant completely packed. The low buzz of chatter mingles with dishes clinking, but the volume in the restaurant never reaches headache-inducing levels. The staff always reacts in a friendly way to requests, verbal or unspoken. In fact, the last time I went, the server who brought me my food went to the trouble of picking up silverware for me along the way.

Ultimately, that may be my favorite part about this little family-owned Italian restaurant. Indeed, I have enjoyed the company of a friend every time I’ve gone to Mama Mia, because I feel as if our camaraderie deepens around the scent of cooking pasta and the welcoming atmosphere. In the end, getting to eat a delicious meal in such relative peace and quiet more than compensates for the extravagant prices.

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