Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mamma Leone - My Gold Standard

I am going to open myself to all manner of ridicule by posting this, but what the hell.

Whenever we go out to dinner and see a pricy menu - or more to the point - don't go into some restaurant or another because the posted menu is out of our budget, I am reminded of the old Mamma Leone's in New York City.  I remember going there with my parents and brother when I was a kid, sometime in the early "60s, probably around 1962.  (OMG, that was 50 years ago!)  Mom put in her special request, (maybe it was their Anniversary or something, I don't recall) and Dad agreed.

I was probably there two or three more times after that.

People don't believe me when I tell them that dinner, which included Bread, Antipasto, Pasta or Soup, a Main Course, a Cheese Platter, Dessert and Coffee, was $5.00.  And the portions were huge, at least for a kid. 

Mamma's also had ambiance: decor, strolling violinists, and an impeccable, and, I believe, an all male wait staff.  Even then I appreciated certain elements of class and atmosphere of a place. 

Note the "Regular" Dinner Price of $5

I remember Dad checking his wallet to make sure he had enough money for the bill because he was sure it would come to more than $20 for the four of us for all the food they served us.  I wouldn't doubt that Dad was even sweating over the $20 tab plus tip which was quite extravagant and way over his normal budget.  I'm sure it was a healthy chunk out of his weekly paycheck.

$5 in 1960 would be about $37 dollars today.  $20 (about $150 today) could probably buy our groceries for a week back then.    I doubt you can get today for $37 anything near what you could get at Mamma Leone's for $5 in 1962.

So, reasonable or not, Mamma Leone's full, five-course meal and the $5 tab has become the Gold Standard against which I measure the quality, quantity, price and ambiance of a restaurant to this day.  

Needless to say, this precludes my dining at elegant establishments and has gotten me used to the ambiance of McDonald's.  OK, maybe the Olive Garden for a real splurge.


  1. Dammit, Frank, I read the menu and now I'm so fucking hungry!! And all I have here to eat is a cheap Tostino's pizza and some little Stouffer's entrees . . . grin.

  2. Oh, I haven't thought of Mama Leone's for years. Thanks!

    (Russ Manley's Tostino's pizza and Stouffer's entrees sound really good. I'm easy to please.)

  3. Oh, I remember going to dinner there for my first trip to NY in 1981! I was so excited to see a real celebrity! Gabe Kaplan from welcome back Kotter! Thanks for the trip down memory lane



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