As we travel we make a conscious effort to stay close to the ground; hostels instead of hotels, small locally-owned eateries off the beaten path, and word of mouth recommendations as much as possible. This tends to give us a more colorful, cultural and local experience. The hostel guests and proprietors are more talkative and interesting and the guy behind the counter at the restaurant seems a little less burned out on tourists. This general policy however, has led us to an even more specific traveler's axiom: you can't go wrong with Mama.
In Corniglia, you remember that our under-the-table pensione (/pen-see-ohn-ay/) was secured by the Godfather-channeling "Mama" Angela. In Budapest, we found our authentic local Hungarian at Zsoka Mama's, a 6 table restaurant wedged into a small storefront a couple blocks off the main drag. Finally, tonight and last night we stuffed ourselves to bursting on rich, earthy polish food at an eatery that feels like you've walked into a Polish granny's living room -- for about $5 (US) per person. The place is "Kuchnia U Babci Maliny", and if you guessed that the translation includes "Grandma's" you win the prize.
The prototypical "Mama's" isn't ritzy or flashy; in fact, it's usually humble and often downright hard to find. Mama isn't trying to impress you, and you certainly can't impress mama; she's been at this since you were in diapers. Mama hasn't changed with the times or the tourists either; she's still using her mama's recipe.
Mama has seen us through so far and you can bet your bottom zloty that we'll keep coming back to her, wherever we find her.