#WeeklyDish: Joe’s Special at Mama Louisa’s

Last modified on April 20th, 2017 at 9:58 am

Mama Louisa’s has been rolling out fresh pasta and Italian-American cuisine since 1956. Their signature dish, Joe’s Special, has appeared on the menu ever since.

A dish so timeless doesn’t have any gimmicks. Like an In-N-Out burger, there’s no substitute when you’re craving it.

It all starts with a base of the the house tomato sauce with a gratuitous amount of fresh garlic and hot pepper seeds, topped with house-made linguine. Next, it’s brushed with garlic oil and topped with a couple of slices of cheese. A trip to the salamander melts the cheese, then another ladle of the garlicky tomato sauce is lathered on top.

The delicate, fresh linguine has more body thanks to the abundance of egg yolk in the dough. The house sauce is as comforting as a red sauce gets with the right balance of acidity and mild sweetness. Although the garlic is abundant, it’s not overpowering. There’s a bit of that raw garlic kick but it’s cooked enough to keep the kick subtle.

Executive chef Michael Elefante wouldn’t share what type of cheese is used, just that it’s an “ancient Italian secret.” However, it’s creamy and has a photogenic melted stringiness that you have to wrap around your fork to keep yourself from making a mess.

For $9 at lunch and $10.75 at dinner, Joe’s Special is an affordable plate of love and an iconic local dish.

Jackie is a food writer and photographer native to Tucson. He enjoys neon-lit dinners and long crab walks on the beach. If you'd like to stalk him, visit jackietran.com
  • TiroGrande

    Mmm Mmm, arguably the best thing on the menu, been eating it for over 40 years!

  • RobG

    There is a fallacy that Mama Louisa’s is one of the best Italian restaurants in Tucson. I have been there twice, most recently about 2 months ago. Besides being a filthy dirty and run down inside, the pasta has always been overcooked, and the sub-par level of care put into the dishes shows in every thing that comes out of the kitchen. I suggest that the chef go to LA, NY, Chicago or travel to Italy, enjoy some good Italian food and come back refreshed and ready to renovate and reinvigorate his restaurant.