Taking on the all-you-can-eat pasta challenge

By Joseph L. Garcia, Reporter

WE like to think we have a very expandable stomach, so when we found out through a Facebook announcement that Mama Lou’s Italian Kitchen was having a 12th anniversary Endless Pasta promo, we knew we had to at least try to climb an Everest of unlimited pasta.

Mama Lou’s was founded in 2010, and operated by the Tremblay family in BF Homes, Parañaque. It still maintains a BF Homes branch, but has opened several branches since: these include restaurants in Nuvali, Evia, UP Town Center, Ayala Malls The 30th, Feliz, Manila Bay, Circuit Makati, North Exchange, and Venice Grand Canal Mall. It had opened a sister chain as well, called Nonna’s. The restaurant was named after its co-founder, the Tremblay matriarch Marilou (who unfortunately passed away due to cancer, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer).

“In the mind of people any food establishment based on ‘Mama’ [h]as to be homey, friendly, and good. We named it after my wife Malou who was an excellent cook,” said Richard Tremblay in an old website for Mama Lou’s.

The announcement on Facebook said that guests may refill their plate with any flavor of pasta from the available choices (Carbonara, Bucatini Amatriciana, Mama’s Pesto al Pollo, Lucio’s Truffle, Spaghetti Bolognese, Vongole Olio, Spaghetti and Meatballs, Lasagna, Spaghetti Con Tuyo, Arabbiata, and Truffle Mac and Cheese). Guests may refill their plate an unlimited number of times, but they must finish their last serving of pasta before requesting a refill. Guests cannot leave any leftover pasta, or take it out, or share. The server told us that the first plate would be at 200 grams, and succeeding servings would be 100 grams. At a sum of P550 (when a plate costs upward of P300) per person, we figured we’d get our money’s worth after two plates.  Deal!

Friends refused to come because they were afraid of what too much pasta may do to a person. A loyal nephew decided to come with me to the UP Town Center branch, but unfortunately quit after just one plate. I had to do this quite alone.

We opened with the Vongole Olio, pasta cooked with clams in a light sauce. It had a rich clam broth pooling at the bottom of the plate; and the pasta looked glossy and appealing. It had that briny taste of the sea, and tasted almost like I ordered it at a seaside restaurant. So far, so good.

Lucio’s Truffle Pasta, the one that defeated my nephew, had a truffle taste that felt only like a suggestion (the scent of truffle was strong but faded easily), but the sauce was at least satisfyingly creamy.

The Bolognese (a tomato-meat sauce) was delightfully chunky, but comparable to other mid-priced Bolognese sauces found in the city. Mindful that Bolognese sauce takes several steps to make, it did have a quality that it had been stewed for at least a few hours.

We felt that the Spaghetti and Meatballs dish, with an acidic tomato sauce (which was felt on our tongue) did not add much to the experience, and took up valuable pasta real estate in the stomach. By then, the line of tomato-based sauces left us feeling a bit tired, so when the Bucatini Amatriciana arrived on our table, we had low expectations for it — and we were gladly mistaken. The sauce is traditionally made with guanciale (cured pork cheek), but we accepted the smoky bacon on our plates (but then, we could be wrong; and we really did strike out that day). Other ingredients in traditional Italian cuisine include tomato and pecorino Romano, but we weren’t picky. This was served with Bucatini, a long and hollow noodle. This shone with the sauce, for the thicker, heavier noodle slid silkily into the mouth (perhaps the noodle was made aerodynamic by its structure) and added good-natured heft to the dish.

At that point, we felt our eyes drooping (from a carbohydrates crash, no doubt) but we felt that we could eat more. We settled for the Spaghetti con Tuyo. This was a pleasant, deceptively simple, and well-balanced ending, with the spare slices of tuyo (dried and salted fish), arugula, and tomatoes singing together.

We had six plates of pasta all together, and had a good night’s sleep after. Did I get my P550’s worth? Yes, and then some. Will I do it again? Maybe. Should you try it? Yes, just so you could say you could (and the Vongole, Spaghetti con Tuyo, and the Bucatini were really good).

The Mama Lou’s Italian Kitchen Endless Pasta promo is available on the following dates: Sept. 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, and 28.

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