The Big Mamma Power Rankings
photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch
In 10 years we imagine there’ll be an OTT, giant stracciatella gelato cake-serving trattoria on every high street. But for now, outposts from Italian restaurant group Big Mamma are spreading across London, leaving a NSFW-shaped mug and parmesan wheel trail behind. Taking the food mostly out of it (the menus are similar enough and dishes all pretty average), we’ve ranked Ave Mario, Jacuzzi, Circolo Popolare, and the rest of Big Mamma's restaurants from best to worst.
photo credit: Giulia Verdinelli
The beauty of Circolo Popolare is that it still manages to feel slightly rustic even though it must have had a budget to rival a Marvel film. From the moment you step out of Soho and into a sea of twinkling lights and glowing lanterns dangling from a thick foliage canopy, you feel like you’re somewhere magical. It’s like an Italian film set—albeit with permanently chipped plates—where movie moments happen over lemon meringue pie the size and shape of a shark’s fin. Ask for one of the romantic, white stone booths where it’s practically obligatory to stare deeply into someone’s eyes, even if that someone is the waiter bringing over your pasta.
photo credit: Koray Firat
Carlotta serves a dramatic wedding cake dessert, but it’s the bridesmaid in our power rankings, not the bride. Which is fitting for a spot that feels like it’d turn up late to your wedding and make out with the groom's dad. It gives big mafioso meets high-end strip club energy. There are hosts wearing expensive-looking satin jumpsuits, oxblood leather booths, and photos of the founders' family weddings—the kind that have artful filters and chic couples with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths. It’s also got the best Big Mamma toilets, complete with a virgin Mary presiding over the wash basins. Try and get a seat upstairs at this Marylebone spot because downstairs—with its futuristic, curved shiny walls—you run the risk of feeling like an extra in Star Trek.
photo credit: Nacho Rivera
Jacuzzi is undoubtedly a stunner. The interiors—filled with enough chandeliers to cover the whole of Kensington in case of a power outage, and such a large selection of indoor plants that we fear for local garden centres—make us resent our parents for choosing to live in Wembley over an Italian vineyard in Tuscany. The upstairs mezzanine, that feels like a very quaint courtyard garden, is the stuff of destination wedding Pinterest dreams, even though the volume feels more forefront than background noise. This is our favourite Big Mamma spot for a date though. Mostly because you’ll feel like you’re on baecation in Italy.
photo credit: Ave Mario
Stripy, humbug walls and bright red seats—Ave Mario in Covent Garden teeters over into eyesore territory. And it’s not even a fun eyesore—like the kind that gets you a day off work. It doesn’t have the romantic overload of plants that some of the other spots have, and the two-person armchairs on the ground floor level can feel a little squished. Plus, we once ate a courgette cream pizza here that made us feel sad in a way that no cheesy carb should. Things do get much better on the middle floor (before taking a steep decline in the poor man’s Studio 54 basement). So beg, steal, or barter for one of the rattan seats in the Amalfi Coast-like room.
photo credit: Giulia Verdinelli
Gloria is the mamma of all the Big Mammas. The OG London Big Mamma restaurant in Shoreditch, she’s the more mature, down-to-earth one of the group that won’t confuse you with grand winding stairs or five different rooms all with a different personality. Instead, there’s some calm cohesion between each space and you can eat chewy bufala mozzarella-topped pizza in a cosy booth that feels like a cocoon. The additional rooms—a mirrored-ceiling basement that treads a fine line between looking old-school and having your actual granddad’s carpet on the floor, and a grown-up candlelit wine room—aren’t as in your face as the other restaurants. But don't you want that a little bit from a Big Mamma spot?