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Award finally comes home to Mama

MAL Bennett has owned Mama Maria’s restaurant for the past 18 years and witnessed the highs and lows of Northbridge.

“The opening of the Burswood Casino changed the style of things around here,” he said.

Prior to that, Northbridge was home to six “tolerated” casinos such as the Il Trovatore. Burswood was given exclusive rights to run casino games, drawing the curtain on those operations.

“We’ve saw the rise of the café scene in Northbridge. Now they charge about the same as restaurants,” he said.

“And through all of that time we’ve seen Northbridge improve.

“Business here goes up and down. It depends on the level of economic activity and what the media is saying about crime in Northbridge.”

Mr Bennett’s 20-year involvement in the motor industry brought him into contact with Mama Maria’s.

He used to own Windsor Nissan in Nedlands, Dave Johnston Motors in Fremantle and Johnstons for Datsun in Rockingham.

The Dave Johnston franchise initially sold British marques such as Leyland and Jaguar.

“I sold then Mama Maria’s owners Harry Ferrante and Carl Steins a Jaguar each,” Mr Bennett said.

“My wife Elaine and I used to eat at the restaurant quite a lot and then I heard it was up for sale.”

Mr Bennett bought into the business with two partners in 1982, content to put up 50 per cent of the money and let someone else run the business.

“After a year I could see that wouldn’t work so I bought out the partners.”

The 30-year-old restaurant underwent a revamp in 1997 and this year won its first Restaurant and Caterers Association award in the Best Ethnic Restaurant category.

“We’ve been runner up for that award for so many years it was great to finally win it,” Mr Bennett said.

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