“When you’re hungry, come to Mama’s!”
Folks in Dracut have been hearing that for 32 years now, and for good reason. They know that when you go to the 1140 Lakeview Avenue restaurant for lunch or dinner, you may arrive hungry but you’ll leave stuffed – and more often than not with leftovers.
You’ll also likely leave with money left in your pocket.
Good food, big portions and short money – that’s a good recipe for a successful restaurant.
“We have customers who have been coming here since the beginning,” co-owner Charlie Koravos says. “We have customers who come in to eat two, three times a week, so we try to keep the prices reasonable,”
Charlie and his cousin, Steve Coravos (the different spellings of the last name is a whole other story) opened Mama’s in 1989 after Steve bought the land and was trying to decide what to put on it. Both had worked at numerous restaurants in their youth, including such legendary local spots as the Speare House, the Windsor, the Princeton Inn and Korner Kitchen.
Steve had the land and Charlie had the plan.
“All the stars lined up,” Charlie says. “I was looking for a place to open a restaurant and one day I asked Steve, ‘Hey, do you have any locations available?’”
Thus, Mama’s was born. It quickly set the bar in town. Steve will tell you why: “Quality, consistency and service are what it’s all about -- I don’t care what business you’re in.”
Mama’s has been a family affair since the beginning. Steve and Charlie both have three kids, and all of them worked at Mama’s when they were young. In fact, one of them – Steve’s daughter, Stacey Coravos -- still works there as the manager.
“I’ve worked here since I was 12, busing tables,” Stacey says. “I’ve don’t every job in the restaurant. Honestly, we do things we’d never ask our staff to do.”
Even her mother, MaryAnn, had a hand in the restaurant.
“My wife did the interior decorating,” Steve says, “which, to this day, remains the same.”
The interior is warm and welcoming, one of the reasons folks like to come back – even after they’ve been away for a while.
Steve says, “We had a kid come in here, he had been away for 10 years or so, and he had the chicken parm, and he told the waitress, ‘This chicken parm tastes the same as it did when I was a kid.’ And there’s a good reason for that. It is the same. What we really try to do is keep the consistency.”
The low prices are also a draw. Where else can you find a Cosmo for $9.99?
Another draw is the friendly staff. In 32 years, Mama’s has employed hundreds of people, most of them Dracut residents and many of them kids. The cousins always strived to make Mama’s a positive work environment.
“We always tell the staff they work with us, not for us,” Steve says.
Charlie adds, “It’s always been a good work environment for kids and students.”
Then there’s Mama’s philanthropy.
“We’ve always been active in the community, the Scholarship Foundation, the Boosters Club,” Steve says. “My grandfather used to say, ‘You get what you give.’”
If that’s true, it’s easy to see why Mama’s Italian Restaurant is still going strong after more than three decades.