Mimmo’s Ristorante & Pizzeria – Albuquerque, New Mexico
My sisters present quite a dichotomy. On one hand, it’s as if they’ve never set foot in the Land of Enchantment. Case in point: In a recent family instant messaging session, they discussed our mom’s delicious red “chili.” A disgrace, I know. Our mom, a spry octogenarian, has never made “chili,” but has always prepared some of the best “chile” in Taos county. You can almost excuse one of my sisters as she’s lived in Texas for many years, but my other sister is married to a guy from Hatch. On the other hand, you can take the girls out of New Mexico, but you can’t take New Mexico out of the girls. On Valentine’s Day, my sisters took our mom to Buca Di Beppo, a mediocre chain restaurant serving “family style portions” (if you’re a family of NFL offensive linemen). Only in New Mexico do hordes frequent Buca di Beppo when there are so many better options available—options such as Mimmo’s Ristorante & Pizzeria.
From the outside, Mimmo’s has the look and feel of a typical casual Italian restaurant, but step inside and you can’t help but notice right away that this venerable restaurant has a devoted following. If long lines and crowded tables portend an excellent meal, then Mimmo’s is one of the Duke City’s premier Italian dining establishments. On busy nights hungry patrons queue up from the restaurant’s entrance to the host’s station to get their names on a list for the next available table. Mimmo’s has no pretensions to being a trendy Northern Italian restaurant. This is a classic Southern Italian and Sicilian restaurant with more than a touch of New York City thrown in. It’s reminiscent of the “red sauce” Italian restaurants on the East Coast which is appropriate because its roots are deeply New York. Mimmo’s is a family restaurant in the classic sense of the word, too. It’s not uncommon to see several tables pushed together with family members of several generations sharing a bountiful repast.
Set your expectations high at Mimmo’s. It’s not the type of restaurant for which you have to dress up, but you’ll be treated better than at most of the so-called four-star restaurants or those stereotypical chain Italian restaurants with their saccharine service and family-style portions. Even if your visits are spaced out by several months (or years), the wait staff will remember having served you before–or at least they’re professional enough to give that impression. The nattily attired–white shirts, black slacks and ties–wait staff is unfailingly polite, accommodating and energetic. Most of the wait staff has been with Mimmo’s for years.
Even before you’re seated, your olfactory senses will respond to the arousing authenticity in the air as the aroma of seasoned sauces wafts toward you. You’ll want to grab the nearest menu and find the genesis of those enticing emanations. As in many Italian restaurants, portions are generally “right-sized” only if you’re famished (meaning the portions are humongous). Your order is at your table within minutes after you order with a significant number of orders being for the special of the day.
Popular among couples with children and diners looking for good value is Mimmo’s lunch hour buffet, an all-you-can-eat feeding trough brimming with pizza, salad, soup and pasta. Similar to many buffets, items are kept warm under serving lamps, but they’re turned around rather quickly by the ever-vigilant wait staff. The frequent replenishment of buffet items ensures freshness and that hot items stay hot. The buffet allows you to craft salads your ways with a variety of fresh ingredients and thick, creamy salad dressings.
The menu is a veritable compendium of Southern Italian and Sicilian favorites–heavily sauced pastas of all types as well as pizzas resplendent with all the usual ingredients and then some. Some of the restaurant’s entrees are accompanied by salad, garlic bread, vegetables and spaghetti while pasta entrees include your choice of salad or soup and garlic bread. It’s not uncommon to leave Mimmo’s with a doggie sack or two. The make-your-own-salad allows you to be as creative and generous as you wish. For me, that means as much blue cheese dressing as it’s humanly possible to carry. Beneath all that blue cheese are some of the freshest salad ingredients to grace a salad bowl in Albuquerque.
In 1949, Louis P. De Gouy wrote The Soup Book which included nearly 800 recipes for thin and thick soups, hot and cold soups, instant soups and soups taking hours to prepare. He called good soup “one of the prime ingredients of good living. For soup can do more to lift the spirits and stimulate the appetite than any other one dish.” Some of the soups at Mimmo’s have that effect on diners, especially the tomato soup which is creamy and delicious. Served piping hot, it’s the type of soup which can quell the cold of winter.
2 May 2010: Mimmo’s cream of mushroom soup has the distinction of having more mushrooms than any soup of this genre we’ve ever had–especially considering some cream of mushroom soup only seems to hint at the proximity of mushrooms. Fetid fungi can be tasted in every single sip of this soul-warming soup, some mushrooms covering much of the spoon. It’s an earthy, soul-warming soup as comforting as you’ll find anywhere.
23 April 2016: Mouth-watering appetizer options abound, including an antipasto which could easily make a meal for one. That would be an appetizer called affettati misti (mixed cured meats), an antipasto comprised of salami, proscuitto, olives, ham, Swiss and provolone cheeses and an assortment of pickled vegetables that may include tomatoes, carrots, celery and more. It is one of our favorite antipastos in Albuquerque even though it’s more than doubled in price in the years we’ve been ordering it. The affettati misti is meant to be shared and even at that, it might fill you up if you’re not careful. It’s served with a sliced loaf of delicious, crusty bread which can be used to craft sandwiches from the cold-cuts or dipped into a mix of Balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
Some say the secret to great Southern Italian food is in the sauce. Mimmo’s seemingly has a sauce to satisfy any palate–Carbonara, Marinara, Alfredo, Fra Diavalo, Bolognese, Béchamel and others. None of the sauces are subtle either in flavor or in profusion. Pasta-based entrees tend to swim in sauce, which is not entirely a bad thing because the sauces are fairly prototypical examples of Italian sauces done well.
The carbonara sauce, for example, is very rich. I’ve had carbonara on the East coast that was so rich, you couldn’t finish it thanks to a profusion of pancetta and a deluge of heavy cream. Mimmo’s carbonara approaches that level. One of our favorite sauce-based entrees has been the Gamberi Fra Diavalo, shrimp served in a sauce which translates to “Brother Devil.” The sauce earns its sobriquet because it’s not only delicious, it’s fiendishly piquant thanks to the liberal use of incendiary peppers. At Mimmo’s, this is one sinfully delicious entree.
Where Mimmo’s truly excels is in the pizza department with a pie that is better than we’ve had at pizzerias raved about by the cognoscenti. Don’t let the buffet pizza be your measuring stick for the greatness of Mimmo’s pizza. Order one of the menu standards (the Mediterranean pizza is terrific). Better yet, have Mimmo’s craft one for you with the ingredients of your choice.
2 May 2010: Make it Sicilian style, a rectangular pizza with a thick crust. Its body is similar in texture to focaccia bread, save for the wonderful crunch on the bottom. Some Sicilian pizza is upwards of an inch thick and is almost casserole-like. Not so at Mimmo’s where the pizza is probably just over half an inch thick including toppings. The toppings are unfailingly fresh and delicious and even though the green chile isn’t particularly piquant, it’s got that unmistakable roasted flavor New Mexicans love.
Sicilian pizza is very popular in the New York area–even though there’s no way you can fold it in half vertically the way many New Yorkers like. It’s stiff enough to be held by the rim without it drooping over and spilling ingredients all over you, but only the bottom is crunchy. The rest is like soft focaccia. Mimmo’s pizza sauce is applied thickly, but it’s redolent with Italian spices (garlic, oregano) and is better than the restaurant’s Marinara sauce. If possible, a Sicilian pizza from Mimmo’s might taste even better after being refrigerated (and it’s fabulous just out of the oven). Considering there are bound to be leftovers, that’s a great thing. A large pizza will generally tide you over for lunch and dinner with a slice or two left over for breakfast.
29 March 2008: The wait staff raves about Mimmo’s Quatro Formaggi (four cheese) pizza. Atop a thin, chewy canvas and a thin slathering of oregano and basil blessed tomato sauce is a rich blend of mozzarella, fontina, gorgonzola and parmesan cheeses. This is a pizza so rich you’ll want to cut that richness with other toppings. Two which do the job well are meatballs and garlic. This pizza is not too heavy or crust-laden so the focus is squarely on the ingredients. Because it is so rich, two people may not be able to finish an entire pie.
2 May 2010: Perhaps the richest entree at Mimmo’s is a special–mushroom stuffed ravioli with scallops absolutely buried under a thick carbonara sauce. This is most definitely a two meal ordeal, a pasta dish so rich you can feel your arteries hardening. As my friend Bill Resnik would say, it should come standard with an angioplasty. My gosh, this is a rich dish! Okay, you’ve got the point–it’s rich. It’s also very good, addictively so. The mussels are sweet, fresh and tender. The mushrooms are earthy and fleshy and the carbonara sauce is redolent with pancetta.
24 April 2016: Baked ziti, a classic Italian-American hybrid showcasing a medium-sized tubular pasta baked with a “chunky” meaty sauce is a specialty at Mimmo’s. Served in a casserole dish, this rendition is very reminiscent of baked ziti as it’s prepared and served in the East Coast. That means it’s served piping hot with a blanket of molten cheese melted atop layers of pasta and rich, red sauce. Rhee Drummond, the Food Network’s “Pioneer Woman” likens baked ziti to be “almost like a lasagna that forgot to use lasagna noodles. Messy. Gooey. Decadent. Ridiculous. In every sense of the word.” That’s how you’ll find the baked ziti at Mimmo’s.
24 April 2016: It speaks volumes about a restaurant that is willing to change the way it serves a dish to accommodate a customer. For one thing, it says that restaurant has a customer first policy that engenders customer loyalty and repeat visits. Secondly, it means dishes are prepared to order; they’re not waiting under some heat lamp for a server to pick them up. On a Sunday, for example, the special of the day was spaghetti all’ Amatriciana with scallops. Explaining my lack of dexterity with spaghetti noodles, I asked if the dish could be made with rigatoni instead. Our server didn’t even bat an eye. The dish arrived as requested—a mound of rigatoni with bits of pancetta, a slathering of olive oil and red hot peppers in a slightly piquant sauce. New Mexico chile lovers will appreciate this dish.
24 April 2016: Mimmo’s offers some terrific desserts, all shipped fresh from Roma Food Enterprises in New Jersey. The cannoli are generously stuffed (on the premises) with rich ricotta embellished with chocolate chips. The shell has a crispy, light texture but it doesn’t crumble when you press your fork down on it. Best of all, you can have either the traditional cannoli or a chocolate-coated cannoli and both are good.
Our favorite Mimmo’s dessert is an Italian cream cake (sometimes called Italian Wedding Cake) so rich and luscious, you can gain weight just looking at it. It is an edible work of art, three layers of heavily iced white cake sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar, topped with caramel and edged with toasted coconut. No two recipes of Italian cream cake are alike. Mimmo’s version is a winner.
Mimmo’s has the look and feel of a neighborhood Italian restaurant in New York or Boston. It’s a little piece of Italy in Albuquerque. You’ll remember the friendly service almost as long as you’ll fondly recall the well-sauced meals.
Mimmo’s Ristorante & Pizzeria
3301 Coors, N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 24 April 2016
# OF VISITS: 14
BEST BET: Affetati Misti, Sicilian Style Pizza, Quatro Formaggi Pizza, Cannoli, Italian cream cake, Tomato Soup, Cream of Mushroom Soup, Gamberi Fra Diavalo, Baked Ziti, Spaghetti All’Amatriciana, Lemoncello Cake