Restaurant Review — Little DeMarinis revives traditional flavors
February 28, 2014
By Gian Pogliano
Like many other Bay View natives, I was raised on Mama DeMarinis and was as excited as anyone else to hear that the original recipes were returning with a new restaurant. But I entered Little DeMarinis for its soft opening February 11 doing my best to avoid bias and examine the food objectively.
After all the secrecy surrounding the renovation, I was surprised to find the décor to be a garage/backyard patio concept. A Vespa stands inside the front door There is a scooter on the wall behind the bar. There are Vespa miniatures and posters everywhere. Work lamps hang from a ceiling with beer caps accenting its copper-colored tile. Many of the servers wear red bandanas a la Rosie the Riveter.
The sign that spelled out Mama DeMarinis on the exterior of the original restaurant on Potter is mounted on the back wall, attached to industrial sheet metal. The burnt wood wall accents reminded me of my grandmother’s backyard brick oven. The tables from Mama DeMarinis are back, refinished to match the wood on the walls, and the plastic chairs are the same, in keeping with the original bar/restaurant’s unpretentious blue collar vibe.
The bar seating is comfortable, and three televisions are tuned to different sports channels. Lakefront beers are on tap, along with Miller Lite. The bottled beer selection ranges from domestic standbys to hipper fare such as Bell’s Two Hearted.
The Cheese Garlic Bread ($5.50) is a good starter, but don’t expect to finish an order by yourself. The four thick slices of authentic Italian bread were soft and fluffy inside with a very crunchy crust. They weren’t over-buttered, and the strong mozzarella didn’t overwhelm the garlic seasoning.
Pizzas in various sizes range from $9-$25. I ordered the 10” pizza listed as The Works ($15.50). I opted for no tomatoes but specified fresh mushrooms. For whatever reason, you can choose between fresh or canned mushrooms. My pizza came in a round pan, but larger pizzas are rectangular, with more crust at the edges. The brick-oven-baked buttery crust was light brown, crunchy on the edges, and softer but still firm in the center. The sausage, made with Mama’s homemade spice blend, blends perfectly with the basil notes of the sauce, getting spicier as you continue eating.
The sauce is just that: sauce. Many are accustomed to tomato paste on pizza, but traditional sauces are thinner. Though this sometimes leaves some liquid on the bottom of the pan and can make some slices a bit floppy, especially when loaded with toppings, it delivers freshness that is well worth it. The pepperoni, well-distributed across the pizza, was piquant, keeping the spiciness consistent. The cheese was light and stringy. All the vegetables were fresh. The green peppers were crunchy, their juices providing a light zing, and the mushrooms were soft and flavorful.
I also sampled a 10” Italian Garden Vegan Pesto Pizza ($15), one of the menu-options added to attract the ever-growing vegan cohort. Putting artichokes on pizza can be a challenge, as they dehydrate very easily. But these artichokes were cooked perfectly — warm, soft, and full of juices. The vegan mozzarella (gluten- and soy-free) was fairly subtle, and I would have preferred it to have a greater flavor presence. The broccoli, red peppers, and fresh tomatoes rounded out a straightforward but complex flavor profile.
Little DeMarinis also features pastas served in fairly large bowls, perfect if you like to toss your pasta first. Options range from Marinara ($9.50) and Alfredo ($11.75) to lighter alternatives like Primavera ($11.25) and Garlic and Olive Oil ($9.50). Other notable items include the Chicken Parmesan Dinner ($13.75), Italian Sausage Sandwich ($8.50), Meatball Sandwich ($7.50), Friday Fish Fry ($10.25) and children’s menu.
2860 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
Tu-Th 4-10; Fri & Sat, 4-10:30; Sun 3-9
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.