My brother and I first knew Mama’s when we got their pizza by the slice. We spent the whole car ride home pontificating on the enormity of the single slice of Mama’s pizza. Big as your head? Big as the car? Big as the city, the state, the country, the hemisphere? I was learning geography in school at the time, so there were limitless locations to which I could compare the size of a slice of pizza.
The true delight of Mama’s pizza is the taste itself. The closest comparison I can make is the pizza I ate while in New York City, which, I learned later, is where the owners of Mama’s originated. The toppings are all the usual: pepperoni, sausage, green pepper, onion, anchovies…but somehow it is all better than a mere list can describe. If I were to give you the ingredients to, say, world peace, you’d look at me with disdain. “That’s it?” you’d say. “That’s all it takes to make world peace?” But you wouldn’t know the joy of world peace until I put it all in the oven and brought it out on a round, soft (but not too soft) piece of dough.
So now you want to take a pizza home and and enjoy the best circular meal of your life? Not so fast. The restaurant is an attraction in itself. Even on a hot summer day, the interior of Mama’s is dark, like a romantic dinner. There is a circle of tables that surrounds a lovely fountain. On each end of the restaurant there are slightly raised platforms with tables in front of the windows. When you’re a kid, you get to hop up that step to get to your table. To place your order, you must navigate around all of this and find the very back of the room, where you can peek at the large ovens cooking up the pizzas. The staff makes the pizza on the counter opposite a glass partition.
For pre-dinner entertainment, there are always two arcade games (switched out every one in a while) and one of those claw vending machines. When the pizza finally arrives, you will have to figure out where it can sit on the table. The diameter of a family size pizza is longer than the table’s width.
Mama’s is known for supporting local sports teams. I can be found in two team photographs hanging on the wall; two years of summer swimming remembered forever. After a meet, the team would often celebrate by going to Mama’s. The younger kids ran around in their swimsuits while the older kids joked with each other and the coaches.
Mama’s is one stop I always make when I go back home. It is a fine restaurant, one of Tucson’s best.