Happy Hour just got fancy.
But in the spirit of what I believe happy hour to be, this week’s review gives Mama Carpino’s happy hour four out of five stars.
I’ll tell you the story.
My sweetheart, Nicole, and I took a trip out to the Village in Apple Valley last Wednesday afternoon around 4:45 p.m. to sample happy hour at Mama Carpino’s, the locally owned Italian eatery that’s been open for several years.
The last time I visited, that I could recall, was probably in 2006 or 2007, so it had been quite a while up until last week. We asked to be seated at the bar, which didn’t exist the last time I dined there.
The bar area (I’m not sure how new it is) is a very nice place to sit, eat and drink. We were the first ones to arrive in this particular area of the restaurant as the bartender’s shift doesn’t begin until 5 p.m. A server poured us a couple of beers — a Stone IPA for Nicole and a Samuel Adams Octoberfest for me — to start while we waited for the bartender to come on board. The server also brought us fresh bread and a plate of an olive oil and balsamic vinegar mixture, a well-known tasty starter at Mama Carpino’s.
While we waited, we perused the happy hour menu, which had quite a few items to choose from, including buffalo wings, fried green beans, crab cakes and mozzarella sticks, to name a few, all for $2 off the regular menu price. The happy hour menu also offers a few flatbread options, including a BBQ chicken with red onions and cilantro, a four-cheese featuring mozzarella, romano, parmesan and feta cheeses or you can create your own — and these are all offered at $3 off the regular price.
The drink options are varied too, from $2 off the regular price for draft beer — Nicole’s IPA was normally $9 while my Octoberfest is regularly $7 — to $2 off specialty drinks — an assortment of handmade cocktails.
Once the bartender, Manuel, had started his shift, we decided on two food items: The creamy artichoke and cheese flatbread and the Caprese salad. Unfortunately, Manuel informed us the restaurant was out of artichokes on this particular day, so we opted for the four-cheese flatbread in its place.
The Caprese salad — five round, thick slices of mozzarella cheese and topped with basil, garlic, roma tomatoes, bleu cheese crumbles and a drizzling of balsamic dressing — came first, within about five minutes of us ordering. This was absolutely delicious, and definitely a “fancy” food option for happy hour. The cheese was cold and firm but still tender to the bite while the flavors from the basil, bleu cheese and dressing really added a nice touch to the dish.
The four-cheese flatbread came about 10 minutes later on a plate sized about 8 by 11 inches and cut into six square-ish pieces. This, too, was delightful. It wasn’t too greasy on the top like you’d expect from a pizza with four cheeses, the flatbread was sturdy but not too hard to bite through and the flavors from the cheese combination made it tasty without being overpowering.
We finished the Caprese salad, though we saved three pieces of the flatbread as we didn’t want to over-indulge.
Before I forget to mention, Manuel was very nice to us and regularly checked in with us to make sure we were enjoying the food and our visit.
So, back to how I started this column: Why four out of five stars?
The food was wonderful, the service was excellent, the atmosphere and environment were nearly perfect but the prices are not what you’d expect for happy hour. They weren’t outrageous, but certainly more than I would typically bargain for and more than I’ve experienced during this Happy Hour tour. To be fair, however, the price makes sense when you consider the high-quality food and the well-rounded experience altogether.
It’s just more than I’d want to spend. I would still very much recommend making a visit to Mama Carpino’s for happy hour — just make sure to bring a few extra bucks.
And your appetite.
Martial Haprov writes Happy Hour, a weekly column focusing on food and drinks offered at discounted prices at Victor Valley eateries, in the Food & Drink section of the Daily Press. Have a suggestion for the column? Drop him a line at MHaprov@VVDailyPress.com.