The Worst Restaurant Ever, Reviewed

Published in Gourmet Live 11.02.11
Comedian and Conan writer Todd Levin imagines the Yelp entries for Mama Mia That’s Italyen Authentic Food Café

Skaneateles, NY

If you’re going to open an Italian restaurant, would it kill you to, I don’t know, make some effort to look Italian? Hang an Italian flag? Throw down some checkered tablecloths? Maybe grab a couple empty bottles of Chianti and use them as candle holders? The first thing that greets you at Mama Mia’s is a massive photograph of Kim Jong Il shaking hands with the bad guy from the movie TITANIC. (Billy Zane—I had to IMDB him) WTF?!? What does this have to do with Italian food? The only sort of Italian thing about this place is the old TV hanging over the bar, playing My Cousin Vinny with the sound off and Korean subtitles. It might have just been a coincidence, honestly.

Seneca Falls, NY

If you follow me on Yelp you’ll know I’m a generally forgiving person. I’m willing to let slow service or a lack of atmosphere slide as long as a restaurant gets the most important thing right—the food! That said, Mama Mia’s doesn’t get anything right—including its name. No, that’s not a typo on Yelp’s part—the actual name of the restaurant is “That’s Italyen.” A restaurant offering “authentic” Italian food that can’t even spell the word ITALIAN should have been a red flag, but what can I say? I was hungry and this is the only all-night restaurant within walking distance of the 24-hour pet hospital. So let’s get to it:

When I walked in, the first thing I noticed was a man sitting at one of the tables, casually clipping his toenails. Strike one. Turns out he was my waiter. Strike two. When I asked for some grated cheese and fresh pepper on my pasta, he told me it was 50 cents extra. The grated cheese was in a jar chained to the cash register, and was being guarded by an old woman in a bathrobe. I was instructed to bring my plate to her and hold it out, which I did, while she shook a few precious crumbs of cheese on my pasta. Is it possible to give five strikes?

I don’t know if Mama Mia is an actual person making the food here, but if she is I think her children should seriously consider placing her in some kind of assisted-living facility because she’s clearly lost her mind. Here’s what I ordered:

Italian Mix Green Salad—Their version of an Italian mixed greens salad was definitely lacking in presentation, authenticity, and sanitation. The plastic bowl unceremoniously thunked down on my table was filled with a bunch of turnip greens (?), a whole, unpeeled potato (???), and a slightly chewed pen cap (!). That’s it. The dressing—or, according to their menu, “dressering”—was one of those little plastic packets of Ken’s Italian Dressing. Seriously?? You couldn’t even dump those out on the salad and PRETEND it’s homemade?

Pasta Bolognese—This is a dish I use to measure the worth of any Italian restaurant. Super traditional, though I’ll admit I was surprised to even see it on the menu, nestled among items like “Tony Soprano’s Hair” and “Many Items Healthful Starch Pocket.” Weird stuff, but I figured anyone can make a halfway decent Bolognese sauce. It’s just good ingredients and patience, right? Dead wrong.

Here’s Mama Mia’s “interepretation” of Pasta Bolognese: ramen noodles swimming in what I can only guess was V-8 drink, with little bits of—I kid you not—BOLOGNA floating on the surface. How did I know it was bologna? It still had the little plastic skin around the edges, and I could clearly make out the “Oscar Mayer” logo on it. Check, please!

Camilus, NY

I’d love to review my meal here. Unfortunately, moments after I placed my order a hatchet fight broke out in the kitchen. I don’t know what the fight was all about, and didn’t stay around to see who lost.

Seneca Falls, NY

OMG I can’t believe everyone’s being so harsh with their reviews. Sure, this place is a little quirky and maybe there’s no door on the bathroom, but I think that’s part of its charm. It’s kitschy! ; ) I ordered the bean paste ravioli and so far

Seneca Falls, NY

OMG I was just released from the Intensive Care Unit of St. Peter’s Memorial Hospital. (by the way, great care, friendly staff—please check my Yelp review!) It’s been three weeks since I slipped into what the hospital’s chief of neurology described as a “spore-based coma,” and ever since coming to I haven’t been able to remember any math.

I was planning on suing this restaurant but kept driving past it. Later, the mold in my ravioli also triggered a rare neurological disorder called “Geoagnosia.” It’s an inability to recognize or remember familiar places, like my home or office.


Skaneateles, NY

Basically, I ordered Chicken Marsala and was served a men’s shoe filled with loose change. The shoe wasn’t even cooked. Draw your own conclusions.

Janice R.
Aurora, NY

Wondering why there are no photos of this dump? I tried to take a picture of my meal—a bowl of white bean and escarole soup that had enough hair floating in it to make a respectable donation to Locks of Love—but as soon as I pointed my phone at the bowl, my waiter jumped in the way and started screaming something about TV. He kept yelling, “No TV! No Morley Safer!!”

P.S. Does anyone know how to write to Yelp, to see if there’s some way to rate something less than half a star?

Robbie C.
Skaneateles, NY

To the reviewer above me—you don’t really need a picture of this place to get the idea. You know those SAW movies? The ones where all the people are locked up in a kinda dark and wet boiler room with a bunch of torture traps, and they’re screaming and trying to get out? Now imagine that, but with chicken parmesan. That’s basically this place.

Seneca Falls, NY

Haven’t read any of the reviews yet but thought I’d check in. Found this place at random. Looks a little funky, but I kind of like offbeat places. Just ordered something called “Grandfather Soup” and I’m about to OMG NOT AGAI

Todd Levin writes for Conan, a talk show on basic cable. He also coauthored the sex manual parody, Sex: Our Bodies, Our Junk.

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