Having a friendly, knowledgeable server makes the whole experience better when you are eating out. And during a recent lunch visit to Mamma Maria's in East Grand Forks, we enjoyed the excellent, pleasant service of Jackie Spicer.

She guided three of us on our journey through the menu. She was knowledgeable about the choices. And she was friendly.

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Having been around a while helps. Jackie has been at Mamma Maria's in East Grand Forks for seven years. She works with catering and parties, and she showed us the upgrading of the very inviting private party room.

My lunch companions were Susie Shaft (SS) and Sue Huus (SH). We studied the lunch menu, which is available from 11 a.m to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. It features half-size portions of the most popular pasta dishes at Mamma Maria's. My lunch lasagna was just right. And SS and SH were pleased with a cheese tortellini and a spaghetti bolognese dish with its seasoned beef in tomato sauce. We especially enjoyed the garlic knot breadsticks.

The regular menu features specialties such as steak gorgonzola ($14.99). And there is a new shrimp and lobster alfredo ($16.99).

Cranberry tortellini with chicken, mushrooms and artichoke hearts has been a best seller. It is $13.99.

Pizza is baked in a brick oven with a 25 to 30 minute timeline. Also available is calzone, Italian stuffed pizza, along with a Stromboli roll.

The restaurant offers a pleasingly upscale choice of seating in booths or at tables. There is seating along the bar. And the restaurant has added a semi-private dining area along with its own restroom facilities.

Mamma Maria's

211 DeMers Ave., East Grand Forks

Telephone: 218-773-2225

Owner: Chad Thomas

Chef: David Lundgren

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily

Seating: 160

Report card: Pizza and pasta are specialties in this attractive, comfortable restaurant. Extensive menu. Service is very good.