Malara’s Italian Restaurant: If It Tastes Like Nonna’s, It’s Because It Is

Martha’s Pick:

2123 Pierce St

Fare: Italian
Cost: $50 for appetizer, 3 main courses and 1 shared dessert.
Reservations: Not needed for our impromptu Saturday night visit, but it did fill up around us as we ate. We recommend calling ahead if you want to secure a table for special occasions.

Greetings, eaters and readers!

Already having plans on a recent Saturday night, Jac and I quickly chatted and decided to seize the opportunity and grab dinner before our evening’s fun kicked off. I mentioned I had heard about Malara’s pretty much since I moved to Omaha 10 years ago. And Jac, though she had been there before, hadn’t visited Malara’s since she was a kid. That decided it – we were off to Malara’s to refresh Jac’s memory and see if the “you gotta try this place” rumors were true. And, because she was joining us for the Saturday night fun, longtime Good Bite Blog friend Becca (say that three times fast!) joined us – so you’ll get insight into an extra plate!

Tucked back in an unassuming, crowded part of Southeast Omaha, Malara’s has a bit of a diamond-in-the-rough vibe when you pull up. An old, sprawling building where the owners both live (upstairs) and host hundreds of Omaha eaters (main floor), stepping inside Malara’s feels exactly like you would want it to when you imagine going to your Italian nonna’s for dinner. And that’s probably for a reason.

According to their own website, Caterina Malara immigrated to America in the mid 1960s, and in 1984 opened Malara’s Italian Restaurant. The family has been serving original recipes to legions of fans ever since and we were eager for the experience.

Mozzarella Sticks ($8.25)

If you’ve never had homemade mozzarella sticks, we’re here to tell you to stop what you’re doing and get some from Malara’s. They were a perfect merriment of light breading that clung to fresh, melty mozzarella cheese. We’ve already discussed how we would be satisfied going back just to smash a hot order of these delightful starters.

Ravioli and Meatballs (Half dinner $10.45) — Ravioli stuffed with RIcotta cheese and house-made meatball with red sauce

Jaclyn took a while to decide – knowing Malara’s reputation meant everything was delicious. And, after a few bites in, she was quite happy with her choice. Everything about it tasted truly made from scratch. The sauce was sweet, ravioli fresh, and the meatball – giant and well-seasoned. 10/10 recommend.

Saturday Special (Full dinner $12.95) — Tortellini filled with sausage in a white sauce.

I am a white sauce kinda gal, and although my stomach was finding about a dozen things it wanted to try, I couldn’t pass up the chance to try the Saturday special – tortellini in a white sauce. Hot, fresh and a generous portion, I really enjoyed it. But don’t expect an alfredo taste when you order this white sauce – my table mates tried it and mentioned how it was a little bland or lacking any distinct flavor for their taste. Creamy and filling though, I wasn’t complaining. I’d get it again. And it easily has enough for a person to take some home for tomorrow’s lunch.

Pasta and Brascioli (Full dinner $13.75) — Bacon-stuffed meatball over angel hair with red sauce.

Long time Good Bite Blog friend Becca pretty much knew what she wanted as soon as we texted her that we were swinging by Malara’s before our Saturday evening show. A born-and-raised Omaha gal herself, Becca had enjoyed Malara’s multiple times and highly recommends their Pasta and Brascioli plate. Though this plate includes a piping hot, generous heaping of sauce and noodles, the crown jewel is the bacon-stuffed meatball. Seasoned and cooked just right, one bite for both Jac and I, and we could see why it was a popular dish.

Homemade Cheesecake ($4.09) — Topped with cherries

Ya’ll. It has been a thorn in my side that one of my bestest friends, Jaclyn, claims to “hate” cheesecake. HATE. She uses the word HATE. The shame. But when Becca described this slice as light, fluffy and nothing like NY-style cheesecake, she caved and decided to try just one bite. Turns out, all I had to do to get her to the right side of dessert history was take her to Malara’s. If NY cheesecake is dense and thick, Malara’s is almost the complete opposite of that – without losing any bit of flavor and scrumptiousness. Jaclyn has even uttered – without provocation – she would go back to Malara’s just to enjoy the mozz sticks AND this cheesecake. Maybe there is hope for her and I to be those forever Golden-Girls-kind-of-friends who solve life’s problems over cheesecake.

Final Bites

If you’ve been to this classic Omaha staple, it’s probably no surprise to you that we give it two forks up. And Becca’s honorary fork included – that’s three forks up for one of the best homemade Italian menus Omaha has to offer. It’s easy to taste, smell and see that the family who runs the place puts all kinds of homemade love into their food.

Whether you have something to celebrate or you’re just craving a “tastes like an Italian family Sunday” dinner, you won’t be disappointed at Malara’s.

Martha, Jaclyn (& Good Bite Blog friend Becca)

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