Review: Mama Nina Foccaceria

by theelvee_w2oe3m

Mama Nina’s Foccaceria is a small setting tucked in a cozy space on Main Street in Bethlehem that, for outsiders looking in, always seems jammed with foodies.  Even outside in the summer the diners spill out onto the patio and chow down al fresco.  Why does the restaurant always seemed to be packed?

The answers is simple:  Mama Nina’s isn’t some typical Italian stereotype who talks with their hands; they talk with their food and their personal service.  Upon entering and sitting down you immediately notice the tight quarters the tables introduce.  Mama Nina’s crams patrons into every available nook and cranny, somehow leaving room for servers to whisk past.

The first thing delivered is garlic bread, to the likes I haven’t seen in the valley before.  Absolutely smothered with pressed garlic cloves, it’s not for the garlic-wary.  The bread itself is doughy but savory, with the garlic and butter slapping you in the face with delight.  The service is face, the atmosphere loud and talkative.  Don’t fret:  For how jammed packed and tight the space is, diners still (somehow) are able to carry on a normal conversation.  The volume levels nears towards a busy cafe, a little louder than usual for dinner but adds to the quaintness of the atmosphere.  It’s also a wonder the waiters and waitresses don’t collide into each other at alarming rates, but they flow through the (lack of) space with ease.

Mama Nina’s menu shows that simplicity is key.  Peppers, garlic, chicken, olive oil, and pasta dominate the menu.  I opted for the filetto di pomodoro which had heaps of angel hair pasta, diced tomatoes, basil, and garlic.  Offering up absolute loads of pasta, the dish couldn’t have been simpler or more beautiful.  Each ingredient was fresh and powerful, yet elegant and blended well.  True finesse.  The pasta is a heavy, nearly fork-bending affair.  There is so much of it that I wouldn’t be surprised if Man vs. Food shows up one day to attempt a plate-cleaning.

Looking around, the atmosphere strikes you as sitting in Venice.  Faux balconies are perched around the room.  The decor is done quite well, edging just above tacky while retaining a certain flair.  It’s a perfect BYOB spot.  A good Brunello would do well here and compliment most anything you choose. 

The desserts, unfortunately, aren’t made on premises and are through Bindi USA.  Regardless, the exotic bomba I had combined three great sorbettos and topped them with a white chocolate coating for a great palate cleanser and finish to the meal.

The staff at Mama Nina’s was polite and checked back frequently, but not to the point of annoyance.  Water was kept filled constantly and the garlic bread, entrees, and dessert were all delivered quickly.  I think with a little larger of a space and white table service the restaurant could shine even brighter, but that may ruin its charm.  The next time you’re strolling past Mama Nina’s and see the huge line or packed dining area: it’s worth it.





Mama Nina

546 Main Street
Bethlehem, PA 18018

You may also like


JennC March 7, 2011 - 8:52 pm

Mama Nina’s has been on my “I Want To Go To There” list for a while; now even more so.

Cheese March 8, 2011 - 6:51 am

Disagree… overly hyped, carb-out joint. Olio’s is much better.

The El Vee March 8, 2011 - 10:33 am

Fair enough 🙂 Olio is still on my list of places to hit. Trying to dig up some info, it looks like they applied for a winery license. I wonder if they’ll be making it on-site?

T March 10, 2011 - 8:46 am

I actually agree with you… is a very good place, and rivals Paolo’s, Tre Scalini, or Terry’s in Easton. If it is a flaw in the place it is indeed how cramped they make it……once I was literally could breathe on the couple sitting next to me…it is uncomfortably close. I avoid it on a Friday or Saturday for this reason alone.

In fact….if the atmosphere wasn’t so “cozy”….I could even be convinced to give it a 1/2 “stack” more.

Good review….keep them coming!


T March 10, 2011 - 8:55 am

Also…to be fair….OLIO I was happy with as well. In fact….I’m surprised people don’t migrate across the street when Mama Nina’s is busting at the seams…….Olio is extremely good as well…..a bit more on the expensive side….but excellent never the less.

David April 22, 2011 - 8:55 am

I have to disagree about Olio. Other than Bethlehem, I have lived in two large cities and have dined at some amazing restaurants, and Olio is not one of them. To be brief, I ordered the octopus antipasto (which i normally love) and was horribly disappointed. It was waaaayyy tooo fishy (to the point of tasting spoiled) and waaaay overcooked. When brought to the attention of the staff they asked me if I would like to box it to go!!!? NO THANKS. Pizzas sounded good at Olio, but thats about it.

KJ April 29, 2011 - 5:29 pm

We stopped going to Mama Nina’s because it is too tight…so to Sal’s in Southside Bethlehem…exact same menu…a little more comfortable.

Aadan June 16, 2011 - 1:41 pm

Here is a tip…don’t go prime time!!!
Yeah it’s small… live with it. Late lunch on the weekend 2-5 is brillant. Mondays and Tuesdays dine after 7, the place is all yours.

Sal a family relative, but Vinny and Joey cook better…Sorry Sal 🙁

Olio’s can’t hold a candle to M.N’s – I have a 3 strike and your out rule – they never made it past a second visit. Ordered 4 items, the wait staff came back 3 times to amend the order for subsitutions and “not available” – we canceled everything and left.

Jeffrey Calachino November 10, 2011 - 10:50 am

I would give the overall dining experience a 3.5 stack. It has a very enjoyable atmosphere to compliment fine entree presentations. I am excitied to return this quality establishment.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.