This is not a Restaurant Review. Yes, Mama D’s sells delicious Italian food to devoted patrons who line up every evening and wait outside for up to an hour while at least a dozen eateries within a five minute walk are half empty or half full depending on your mood du jour. But no, this is not a recommendation of where to get delicious pasta, scrumptious pizza or honest sauce. Ah, the sauce. Instead, this is where to go for an education in the elusive magic of Clients First.
JoAnn and I were in California for a meeting with a Salvation Army officer about Real Estate for Rehabilitation. We saw the crowd on a Sunday evening. We had left Balboa Island via the ferry to the Newport Peninsula and were idling along Newport Boulevard watching the sun go down and the weekend families departing the shore for another week of work. It was a tired scene. Exhaustion filled the sea air, a time of energy hitting bottom, a time of departure and escape. But here were about sixty folks chatting on a stretch of sidewalk. They looked anticipatory, excited, hungry for more than food. They were expectant. They were looking forward to an experience.
We idled by, JoAnn saying something about that must be a great place to eat. I said something about we had just eaten. We drove on to our hotel, but the scene haunted us both.
On Monday morning we finished our meeting in Long Beach by noon. Our flight was at 6:45PM. Could it be that Mama D’s served lunch? We hustled down Pacific Coast Highway, past Seal Beach, past Huntington Beach, and finally to the turnoff to the Newport Peninsula. A mile ahead we navigated a U-turn and slid to the curb in front of Mama D’s. It was 3:00PM. No crowd. We tried the door and it opened.
Mama D’s is small on the outside and big on the inside. At least it felt big, but that was part of the magic. Our server greeted us with a smile normally reserved for soldiers returning from Afghanistan, not a couple of off-hour REALTORS® from out-of-town. She sat us at a table by the window; JoAnn loves windows, and laid down a menu and some reading materials. That’s right, reading materials. After reading “The Crazy Ones”, a long quote from Steve Jobs, we continued to their vision statement pictured here. It says, “We at Mama D’s are proud to be the ‘World Class Crazy Ones”’. It continued with the pledge to “blow the doors off ‘business as usual’”. They continued with a string of lovely words you should read over and over. It ends with the phrase, “One person at a time”.
Wow! What a statement! What a gauntlet! How do you read that and not raise your expectations? How could you work there? How could you set yourself up for such scrutiny. This was madness. How could they last a week.
Could you do this? Could you make this promise and deliver?
Mama D’s did. Our server got our complex order right. She did it all with a look in her eye that said, “Yep. That’s our vision statement and I believe every word”.
We each took turns going to the restrooms and afterward we talked about the experience. I told JoAnn about the rug. She said the ladies had one too. You see these were public restrooms that serve several hundred people a day. You would expect spotless after the vision statement, but you wouldn’t expect an area rug. That’s right, an area rug. It’s about 3’ x 5’ and it was thick and plush and surprising. Then you look around and see a bathroom that’s been decorated as if you were at home. It said care. It said blow you away. I’m sure I became more careful, more tidy than if I were in any other public restroom. I was not only impressed, I was made better by the experience. I became a part of the vision. This is the magic of Clients First. It is the experience. It is the contagion. It is the power that transcends reason and it is in you.
The hallway displayed awards in frames and kids entries in the weekly coloring contest. The restaurant walls had more including blow ups of “The Crazy Ones” and “Our Vision”. JoAnn pointed at the Yelp’s Top 100 Poster and I was dispatched to take photos which we’ve shared here.
The food was spectacular, a chicken parmesan and a chicken cacciatore with no pasta, extra veggies. We are always dieting. Our check arrived with complimentary cookies. Our server smiled and said one bite wouldn’t hurt and like two hypnotist’s subjects we each savored our one bite. It was heaven. It was memorable. It was the final statement. We had come full circle. We had had the experience. We were the vision.
We recommend you visit Mama D’s the next time you visit Southern California. Not for the food. Go for the vision, for the experience, the Clients First experience.