Local institutions vary in character, naturally, according to their location. But be it a pie n mash pub, an ice-cream shop or a tapas bar, there are certain characteristics common across places that claim this status. People go, and go back, to their ‘local institution’ because somehow they feel homey. This, I believe, is the reason Big Mama’s has remained a busy Eastern Suburbs hub for over 20 years. The red glow illuminating the words ‘Open for Dinner’ shine like a beacon, beckoning diners to turn away from the bustle of Queen St and onto Moncur. The restaurant is a converted terrace house, and has built atmosphere around comfort and security. Seating is spread throughout different rooms, creating smaller, more intimate spaces. I like the moodily dim back section with its glowing candles and tuscan sunset walls, but inside is also cozy, with brighter lights highlighting the white tablecloths, an essential feature of the restaurants old-school charm. Also charming are the vintage posters dotted on the walls, for Italian ‘maccheroni pianigiani’ and campari.
Feeling cozy, people tend to order what they know. Its an ‘I’ll have the regular’ kind of place – the deferential staff do a good job of keeping track.
One girl I know is in love with the ‘Linguine con l’aragosta e gamberi’, Linguini with lobster and prawns. My ex English teacher is a big fan of the spatchcock, when on the specials menu. Watching WAG Nation, I even saw Terry Biviano dine here, proclaiming it as one of her favourite local restaurants (yes, I am a sucker for reality TV).
But Best of all is the routine of my friends Connie and Katia. They generally dine here at least once a week, and always order the same thing. Three times. They are obsessed with the eggplant parm, sharing one as an entree, then having their own as a main. When they told me I laughed, then joined them to try it for myself.
I now understand their compulsive obsession. Meltingly soft eggplant, gooey thick layers of bocconcini, sweet tomato passata and crusty parmesan with that vegemite edge, sprig of basil and drizzle of syrupy balmamic – thick, rich, total comfort food.
If in need of some Winter warming, this is the place. Big Mama’s is food you want to snuggle up with.