Awarded by Nici Wickes, Foodwriter & Cookbook Author
There’s a little second generation Italian restaurant that’s been in my childhood neighbourhood for over 30 years and sure, there’s other, flasher places in Auckland that serve Italian cuisine but somehow this is the one that reminds me of Italy the most.
Unpretentious and local, Mamma Rosa in Melanesia Road, Kohimarama, serves a lasagna that is straight out of Italy. Rich, creamy, full-bodied, it’s pure bubbling comfort when it arrives in its plain white dish to the table. The lasagna recipe is from the same source as the restaurant’s name, owner Jason Vitali’s grandmother Rosa. The recipe hasn’t changed in all these years. The egg pasta sheets are made onsite by Jason using the same pasta machine his parents, Eleni and Ennio Vitali, brought to their home from Ascoli Piceno, a small town in the region of Marche in central Italy when they moved to NZ. Jason’s parents started Mamma Rosa, named after Ennio’s mother, Rosa, originally in Mission Bay along with a gelateria in Queen St and a second restaurant in Herne Bay. Thirty two years ago and after the death of Ennio, Eleni relocated Mamma Rosa to Melanesia Road where it has served happy customers ever since and where now her son Jason is in charge.
The lasagna, as with so many other dishes on the menu, reminds me of the type of simple, traditional fare that you get at the local trattoria in Italy where the working people go for a satisfying lunch or dinner. Auckland is lucky to have such an authentic local trattoria in its midst.