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?).
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