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Photos:
Roving Rube

Sept. 28, 2003

Mama Sbarro's buffet, Times Square

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These open-air buffets used to amaze the Rube -- they are in every convenience store, and being able to have whatever you want, as much as you want, appeals to his greed. But over the years he has found typically the food is left sitting out too long, was not of the high quality to begin with, and is priced by the pound to match the most expensive item, so when you take potatoes or macaroni you feel like you are getting gypped.

He was quite familiar with Sbarro's -- there used to be two stores right next to each other on Times Square (this seemed unusual then, like they would be cannibalizing each other's business, but it is not uncommon in Manhattan) -- and they tempted him with their "all you can eat" breakfast buffet. But the thing is, if the bacon is not good, it ruins the whole thing. The bacon is the key thing in the whole breakfast buffet. And he had already come to particularly dislike Sbarro's for what he felt was soggy and overpriced pizza. So why would their bacon be any better?

He was further puzzled when the sign for this new "Mama" Sbarro's went up -- why did they add the "Mama" to it? Would it combine the worst features of Sbarro's and the departed Mama Leone's?

Frank Valenza - former owner of the Palace, one of New York's most expensive restaurants, and present owner of pricey Two Two Two on the Upper West Side - has taken on perhaps his biggest challenge: classing up the Mama Sbarro's at 49th and Broadway.

"It's different," he admitted to The Post. "An average check is around $14 to $16."

That's quite a change from the $150 he charges for a plate of pasta (with 10 ounces of shaved white truffles) at his other eatery.

Valenza, who was hired as a consultant for the pizza chain, has introduced waiter service and plans to bring in a jazz band on the weekends. (from NY Post, 4/9/03)

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