Winter holiday in Lahti, Finland? Sure! Let’s go! Lahti, the eighth largest city in Finland is best known for its annual World Cup winter sports, the Lahti ski games ( http://ow.ly/iwTT4 ).
If you’re in Helsinki during this time, take a day trip. From the Central Railway Station, Lahti is about an hour train ride from Helsinki.
The city is small enough to travel around by foot. If you’re not one for walking around in the cold, don’t fret! There are plenty of cabs available to take you around.
Mamma Maria restaurant, located in Lahti, was my main reason for taking this short jaunt out of Helsinki on a Saturday in late February. A friend of mine from Sicily works there and I was about to pay him a long awaited visit.
The town was bustling with a ski jumping competition full of locals and tourists from other parts of Europe. From a distance, I could hear the announcements and commentary about the event.
This made the walk from the train station to the competition quite easy. Just follow the noise and head for the large ski jump towers.
After a few hours of being an outdoor spectator, it was finally time to head over to Mamma Maria’s to eat!
Mamma Maria restaurant is an institution in Lahti. It has been in business for seventeen years and is still going strong.
The truly wonderful thing about this restaurant is its authentic Italian nature. Most of the ingredients are imported from Italy.
The waitstaff and kitchen staff are predominately Italian, thus keeping the food, service and overall restaurant style authentically Italian.
You feel like part of their family from the moment you enter the restaurant.
Mamma Maria has the warmth and coziness of a ski lodge trattoria and the aromas emanating from the quite large open kitchen instantly let you know that delicious, well-prepared food is being cooked.
They serve food with pride and truly keep it Italian! This is a scratch kitchen, where all menu items are made from “scratch” in-house. They were very kind to give me a tour of the kitchen during this extremely busy ski competition that was just down the street. What I saw, even in the midst of a busy lunch service, was very impressive. There is a room solely dedicated to the art of making fresh pasta. They prepare all pizza doughs in-house along with all the delicious gelati.
Yes, even the delicious gelati are made on the premises!
While I was in the middle of this kitchen tour I realized that I was submerged in Italian language conversations. If I hadn’t heard some Finnish being spoken out in the distance from the dining room I would have sworn I was in a trattoria in Italy. It flashed me back to my own experience of working and cooking in Italy.
The overall experience was a true joy, the food was fantastic and the energy inside Mamma Maria’s was downright fun!
I would like to share some of the dishes I ate:
Appetizer: Misto di Affettati e Formaggi
Consisting of – Sicilian green olives, Parmigiano Reggiano, sun-dried tomatoes, Genoa salami, Prosciutto di Parma, pickled miniature onions and last, but not least, speck. The sliced meats were so fresh!
It was a very nice and simple kick-off to the rest of the meal.
Sicilian Arancini di Riso ( Risotto Balls ) stuffed with peas, ground meat and flavored ever so nicely with saffron. Served hot!
Yes, the risotto balls were nice and hot all the way through and placed over delicious tomato sauce that was equally as hot. The warmth and well prepared nature of this dish was extremely comforting on a frigid, cold afternoon in Finland.
Homemade Bigoli Pasta
Lastly the pizza! Thought I forgot?
It is impossible to forget the pizza in this restaurant. I sat literally right next to the open kitchen. A kind of make-shift “chef’s table”.
I watched dozens of delicious-looking pizzas continuously make their way from the kitchen to the dining area. To actually stop from salivating, I simply ordered one.
The pizza was a huge hit. Others sitting next to me were raving over the Calabrese-style pizza they were enjoying. The pizza description read: Tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, chicken, pancetta, red pepper and chili. The pancetta and chili sold me!
The crust was excellent, pliable yet still crunchy. It was nicely charred in some areas and the toppings really worked well. The spiciness from the chili was really what made this pizza sing and boy was I singing by the time I got to the last slice. Great pizza pie!
From the decor to the friendly Italian staff to the execution of the food, this restaurant delivers a warm Italian embrace in the midst of Lahti, Finland’s cold winter ski competition capital.
Click the below links for further information on:
Mamma Maria – http://mammamaria.fi/
Lahti, Finland – http://ow.ly/ipdNu