50 years of fresh pasta

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Ashlee Salamon

Ashlee Salamon / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Ali Freedman

The Old Pueblo seems an odd place to find mouth-watering Italian food, but it certainly exists. Try Mama Louisa’s, a true Tucson classic.

This restaurant is family owned and operated and has been serving great food at reasonable prices since 1956. If freshly made pasta is up your alley, then Mama Louisa’s is a must-try: It’s their main attraction, but cetainly not all there is to be had.

Located a bit east and a 15-to-20 minute drive from campus, Mama Louisa’s is located just past 29th Street on Craycroft Road. The great glowing sign that sits above the street lets you know that you’ve arrived and the murals that cover the walls inside give you a glimpse into Italy, but it’s the food we’re here to talk about.

You can’t go to Mama Louisa’s without trying Joe’s Special. This delectable dish is a simple blend of flavors and textures. Homemade linguini is topped with their special cheese, hot pepper seeds, freshly chopped garlic and tomato sauce. The fresh pasta, melted cheese and sweet but tangy sauce make for an irresistible combination.

If meat is more your dish, there is plenty to be had. Mama Louisa’s offers meatballs, meat ravioli, pork parmigiana, chicken parmigiana, and veal parmigiana among other carnivores’ delights. Any of the parmigianas paired with Joe’s Special creates the perfect plate for a first-timer. The meats are all breaded and cooked to tender perfection before being topped with sauce and cheese.

If you’re in the mood for something creamier, their rich, thick alfredo is another great option. The array of baked pastas and raviolis are also worth a try. There are combo plates and pizzas as well.

The all-you-can-eat salad bar is the only letdown. While the soups are delicious, the salad bar is nothing to write home about, but with all the options Mama Louisa’s has to offer, salad is the least of your worries. Vegetarians can rejoice; the eggplant parmigiana is a fantastic option. Lightly breaded and fried pieces of eggplant layered with cheese and tomato sauce — it’s a classic done right and served in good-sized portions.

With friendly staff, fantastic food and fresh pastas, Mama Louisa’s clearly has brought the right kind of grub to the table to keep its doors open for more than 50 years. From lunch to dinner to dessert, you’re covered — especially when it comes to dinner and dessert. Tiramisu, the Mt. Vesuvius liqueur-covered sundae and chocolate lava cake are only a few of the desserts offered — but be sure to save room, because the portions are hefty and it can be hard to put your fork down.

If you’re looking to stop by on the weekends, consider making reservations to bypass the wait. Take-out is also available, but the charm of this family-owned joint and its friendly staff makes it well worth dining in.