I love fried food and any sandwich experience that could end up with half in my mouth or on my lap. On my first visit to Hot Mama! Pizza & Phillys I stumbled through the ice covered parking lot on the corner of Arctic Boulevard and 36th Avenue drawn by the siren song of the deep fat fryer.
Inside the first thing I noticed was the absence of tables or chairs. A small fluorescent-lit room with a counter, exhaust hooded cooking stations and slush covered carpets, it's takeout or delivery only.
I scanned the dry erase board's list of pizzas, subs, calzones, salads and wings. Offerings include beer battered zucchini ($4.99) and a grilled chicken calzones with mushrooms, onions, ricotta, mozzarella and garlic butter sauce ($14.99 for a large, $12.99 for a small).
The pizzas range in price from $14.99 to $21.99 and include combinations such as the Hot Mama! Mia (Canadian bacon, pepperoni, Italian sausage, beef, green peppers, onions, black olives, mushrooms, fresh tomatoes and mozzarella with marinara sauce) and chicken con corn-y (chicken, whole kernel corn, mushrooms, onion, tomato, feta and mozzarella cheeses with a garlic butter sauce).
There is also a selection of Philly-style steak sandwiches. The sandwiches come with a quarter pound of meat in options such as the hot (steak, onion, green pepper, jalapeno and Swiss) and pizza (steak, pepperoni, onion, pizza sauce and mozzarella). Prices range from $8.99 (regular) to $10.99 (extra meat).
I picked the original (steak, onions, Swiss) and as the sweet onions sizzled and steam filled the restaurant I asked owner Stephanie Smith about the business' name.
"I figure there are plenty of uncles and papas around," Smith said. "I wanted to represent a little."
Smith has owned the restaurant for about a year-and-a-half and said she's worked in the pizza business on and off for about 10 years, although she won't reveal where.
When I got my sub the cheese was still bubbling. The freshly baked bread was thick and doughy, overwhelming everything a bit. I longed for more meat to completely cover the bread and another slice of cheese.
The fries were just snatched from the fryer and hot with a light sprinkling of salt. Cut fresh daily, the slivers of skin around their edges were cooked until they turned a chocolaty color brown. Fry perfection.
Hot Mama also has a menu of sandwiches that features meatball, chicken Parmesan, turkey or submarine subs, a 1/3 pound burger and gyros (all $8.99). I decided on an Italian sub ($8.99). With pepperoni, Italian sausage, mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce lovingly spread on a 12 inch sub roll; it was a bouquet of flavors.
Salty tangles of pepperoni nuzzled beside little round spicy brown sausages with a sweet marinara and buttery cheese covering it all. The fries were great again too.
My next go-round, I called in a large grilled garlic chicken pizza ($17.99) and 20 hot wings ($17.99) for delivery. I was told it would be 45 minutes to an hour and it showed up right on time.
The hand-tossed pizza had a soft, garlicky crust. I chewed my way through perfectly cut pieces of chicken, garlic, onions and mushrooms. Slices of tomatoes were a nice touch of color for the white pizza but I do wish there had been more mozzarella cheese.
The wings were all jumbo drumsticks in a light, spicy sauce. I was just going to eat two and share the rest, but six wings later when my lips were puckered, greasy and bright red -- the way only a good hot wing can do -- I was finally full.
Hot Mama! is a nice addition to the pizza scene and the wings set it apart. Staying in is worth an order out.
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By Rebecca Palsha
Daily News correspondent