01 November 2009

Mamma Maria Got Old and Now Smokes, But her Pizza is Still F*&$ing Good

Small House Combination Pizza, $13.00, split.

Caution: If you’re a vegetarian you might be offended by what I’m about to suggest to you, so you should probably stop reading right about now.

For all of you that don’t mind layers and layers of succulent meat, you must try Mamma Maria’s Combo. This pizza is legit, but not everyone can handle the offerings, which consist of medium thick crusty crust, with of course sauce and thin slices of Molinari salami, spicy pepperoni, and chunks of Italian sausage. The De Marco’s then add olives and the pizza is topped with whole pepperoncinis. Delicious.

Now for the difficult part; Mamma Maria’s is on 52nd and Powell. If that’s not discouraging, it’s also a very stinky, dingy, middle aged bar/restaurant. I’m sure you’re wondering where I came about this mouth watering pizza, in a dirty little bar. Well I’ll tell you. Mamma Maria’s used to sit as a simple, but cute restaurant on SE 21st and Powell. It was at this time that the youthful Don and Linda De Marco used to come for date night; splitting a large Mamma Maria Combo and beers. As Don and Linda got older, they had three children and I was one of one them. The whole family would come to the restaurant and eat this fabulous pizza, the children sipping sodas and Don and Linda now sipping vodka on the rocks.

Ignore the pineapple; the person I was with only eats pizza with pepperoni and pineapple, weird, I know.

Disaster strikes—Mamma Maria’s is forced to move and the De Marco’s pizza joint is moved up to 52nd and Powell and now turned into a shady bar. That didn’t stop them though; Linda would and still does get an inkling and drives across town to deliver the family their Mamma Maria’s combo. “Mamma, why can’t we go to Mamma Maria’s like we used to?” my brother would ask.

On Friday night, I found out why we always bought the pizza to-go. As I walked into Mamma Maria’s to order a pizza, the bar smelt like a smoked in retirement home. The restaurant on one side sat empty and three middle aged men sat drinking in the bar area. Duck paraphernalia scattered around the room, a fish tank behind one table and a non working radio behind the bar. The bathroom stall doors hold six inch spaces between the sides—allowing for little privacy (but who’s to worry, since no one is here?).

Check out the overload of pink. Not so appetizing.

As soon as our pizza was ready, we rushed out and grabbed some to-go drinks at the connected 7/11. The counterman saw our pizza. “AAAAhhh, you got pizza from next door? That place if F*&$ing bomb. It’s sick inside but that pizza is F*&$ing good. You wouldn’t F*&$ing know, but F*&#ing is!” If the locals like it, it must be good.

Once home, with my pizza in front of me, all was resurrected with one bite. The spicy salami and juice from the pepperoncinis and the crust that’s unmistakable, is all too good to be true.

The moral of the story: if you want a sketchy night with incredible pizza, go to Mamma Maria’s and eat there. If you want crazy good pizza and don’t want to wince at odd smells and middle aged men, then take your pizza to go.

5234 SE Powell Blvd
Portland, OR 97206-2950
(503) 788-4698


  1. This looks SO good..thanks for the reminder. We started going there in 1976 and I think that's when they bought their last piece of furniture. The area is sketchy so bring along a driver to wait for you, have napkins in the car because you won't get far before the steaming box is opened and when you reach home just tell the kids they left a few slices out..sorry! This is their House Combo but w/ black olives added.

  2. was B the one who ordered the pepperoni and pineapple?

  3. Ummm; I love pepperchinos...I've never had them on pizza but I'm surely going to try that..thanks.
    I'm looking forward to meeting you at the Foodbuzz Festival in San Fran on Friday; I can't wait!

  4. Dani,

    I love this blog post. This cracked me up. I think I might have to hit this place up next time I am in Portland.

    - Audrey

  5. i grew up on mamma maria's pizza! such a trashy place but sooooo good. what a great portland gem you've written about - i thought no one knew of this place!


  6. My dad and I were just talking about our craving for this pizza! My dad was a good friend of Gino and spent a lot of time growing up there and we would drive across town every friendly night to get pizza, oh how I miss mama Maria's.