It is always interesting to compare a family of restaurants. If you have followed Berks County Eats across the past four years, you have seen us profile several sets of related restaurants.
We have paid visits to Stokesay Castle and Gatsby’s at Sunnybrook Ballroom, had memorable (and forgettable) meals at ViVA and ViVA Castle Pub, had dinner at two Giannotti’s, and tasted all three locations for Klinger’s.
This week we cross another one off the list. It was in late 2015 that Julie and I made the drive to Amityville for a visit to Vincenzo’s. But we had yet to pay a visit to the family’s original restaurant, Mimmo’s.
Mimmo’s is located within the city limits of Reading, along Morgantown Road (Route 10) near Alvernia University.
I had watched as Mimmo’s underwent an extensive renovation and expansion in 2015. After it was finished, there was no denying the similarities to its sister restaurant. Both feature an exterior of stone and stucco meant to harken back to the Old World.
The restaurant has quite a large dining area – multiple dining rooms plus an outdoor patio – but take-out is big business as well.
We were looking for the full experience so we entered through the dine-in door and were seated in a booth for two in the back corner of the front dining room. The seat was right next to a bar – one without seats that served only as place for mixing drinks.
Our waitress stopped by quickly to take our orders, but we weren’t quite ready. It was not an easy decision for either of us because the menu is as expansive as the building.
Finally we called our waitress back and placed our orders. But before our entrees arrived, we were brought two warm, oversized dinner rolls that were very reminiscent of the ones we had on our visit to Vincenzo’s.
I had waivered back and forth between two of the 13 options in the chicken and veal category before finally settling on the chicken Calabrese.
The dish included two large chicken breasts with mushrooms, green peppers and onions in a spicy Calabrese sauce. I had no idea what Calabrese sauce was, but the keyword was spicy so I decided to give it a try.
It was as advertised. The sauce definitely had heat to it, though it was more of a slow burn, one that built up with every bite instead of hitting you head-on. I enjoyed the flavor, but the sauce was runnier than I would have liked. Not knowing anything about Calabrese sauce, I have no idea what it normally looks like. I just prefer thicker tomato sauce with my pasta.
That said, the flavor was there. And it played well with the chicken. The mushrooms, peppers and onion were good additions as well.
All pasta entrees are served with your choice of garden salad, Caesar salad or cup of soup as an appetizer. On this day, there were three choices of soup and I went with my old stand-by at Italian restaurants: Italian wedding soup.
Mimmo’s version was among the better versions that I have tried. It did not have a lot of the signature mini meatballs, but it had enough that I did not feel cheated. Instead, the flavor came from a broth that was flavorful but not too salty.
Across the table, Julie had ordered one of her favorite Italian entrees, eggplant Parmigian with whole wheat linguini.
Her marinara sauce was much thicker, but the flavor and heartiness of her meal came from the heap of mozzarella that was on top of the eggplant. It was a good balance and a very enjoyable dish. Even the wheat linguini, which she had gotten on a whim, was a pleasant addition.
For her appetizer, Julie had chosen the simple garden salad. There wasn’t anything extraordinary about it. In fact, Julie wasn’t even able to finish her salad before the entrees had arrived. This same quick service was something we had experienced at Vincenzo’s.
Another similarity between the two restaurants is price. Though our bill was slightly less at Mimmo’s ($36 compared to $45), it was only because of our entree selections.
In all, the two restaurants were alike in many ways. The similarities in appearance were obvious, but it went deeper than that.
Both offered fast service and quick delivery of our meals. The prices are reasonable for large portions (we brought leftovers home from both restaurants).
Oh yeah, and the food was very good, too.
Ambiance: Very Good
290 Morgantown Rd
Reading, PA 19611