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Shrimp and lobster ravioli in a cream sauce with a fine chiffonade of fresh basil.
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Owners Collier Evans, left, and James Bonsanti, who took ownership of the beloved neighborhood restaurant five years ago next month, New Years Day.
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Wayne St. Wayne’s extensive mural is nearly complete.
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Toasted ravioli gets a new spin with inventive fillings beyond the traditional and with three sauces above the ordinary – a spicy arrabbiata, fresh pesto and a garlic aioli.
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This BLT goes beyond the basics – the ‘Centurion’ features a peppered bacon, Roma tomatoes and romaine lettuce with fresh mozzarella and house-made sauces, both pesto and garlic aioli on a beautiful bread. More than a meal.
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Mangia offers a trilogy of house made chips. Potatoes both sweet and russet as well as beets fried crispy and fine.
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The house-made infusions, syrups and garnishes Evans makes brings an extra punch to his well-crafted cocktails and to the 75-item Bloody Mary bar at Sunday’s brunch.
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Some things are new. Last year, Evans and Bonsanti opened the downstairs game room with old fashioned darts, still scored by hand, and two green felt billiard tables, not pictured.
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A Star Wars pinball game awaits players.
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The stylish entry at Mangia with its bright neon sign and brushed metal dotted door – fun, sophisticated and intriguing. The reflected triangle in the glass transom suggests a bit of magic as well.
When James Bonsanti and Collier Evans pocketed the keys to Mangia Italiano on New Years Eve in 2009, the dream they’d harbored since high school to one day own a restaurant came true. They opened Mangia under new ownership two months later, in February, 2010. The two are only the third owners since the restaurant/bar first appeared on the South Grand scene in 1983.
Mangia remains a neighborhood favorite with a fine restaurant, a handsome bar with lively music, hearty food and fellowship, but have changed under Bonsanti and Evans. Evans created a host of well-crafted cocktails with 20 different house made infusions, syrups and more. Bonsanti tweaked new and inventive menu selections to tempt the regulars and first-time visitors alike. Mangia now hosts a downstairs game room with real darts, billiards, classic Atari and Star Trek pinball. There’s even a mysterious Steampunk madam (right), fabricated by Evans, who oversees the game room action from her cage.
This winter, they’re taking their game a step further and introducing more new menu items and more craft cocktails that showcase each partner’s strengths.
“Jim’s specialties include wild game and fish,” Evans says. “You'll see toasted duck ravioli, buffalo short ribs, more wild game, toasted alligator ravioli — we’re adding to our menu.” Look for new fish offerings like the mushroom and crab stuffed cod with white wine cream sauce and for a venison steak, too.
For both men, maintaining the Mangia identity remains key. “We like to say we’re upscale, but not so stuffy as to make people nervous,” Evans says. “We’re a dinner destination now. We’re known as a romantic first date place, a place where people often get engaged and a place where couples return for anniversaries. At the same time, we serve a diverse audience from business people and friends out for lunch to folks who enjoy our late night menu and entertainment.”
Sunday brunch, which features a 75-item Bloody Mary bar, has a big customer fan following. Evans pickles seasonal vegetables in house and offers a hot pepper infused vodka. Popular menu items at brunch include green eggs and ham, country gravy hash, and a chicken and waffle sandwich.
Don’t miss the fine cocktail menu with drinks like the Boulvardier, Buffalo Trace bourbon, Campari, vermouth, orange and cherry, barrel aged. Try the Fig Vanilla Manhattan, made from bourbon infused with figs and vanilla bean, vermouth, and bitters.
“We’d both been coming to Mangia for about 10 years before we bought it,” Bonsanti says. “When we first took over, we walked the neighborhood to get signatures for our liquor license. People begged us ‘Don’t change the menu.’ We continue to accommodate them by retaining favorites, but now we’ve gone well beyond the traditional with our food.”
The first thing the new owners did was to shut down operations for a bit. “We closed the bar, which had been a smoking bar, then cleaned and refreshed everything from floor to ceiling,” Evans says. Evans runs the front of house, acts as general manager and runs the bar program while Bonsanti cooks and runs the kitchen. Both are dedicated foodies whose culinary interests range far and wide.
When New Years Day 2016 rolls around, they will pass the five-year mark at Mangia, a sweet day for both. Which brings us to the desserts, the cheesecakes, the inventive sweets that bring a perfect ending to any meal.
The day we visited Bonsanti made a Kahlua cheesecake (right), perfect, with no cracks in the crusts, no sunken middle, a beautiful slice that showcased his skills. The crust was even unusual. “I had a taste for my great-aunt Esther’s oatmeal raisin cookies,” Bonsanti says, “so I made an oatmeal crust, based on those flavors, for this cheesecake.” Bonsanti and Evans have so many cheesecakes ideas it would be hard to choose a favorite. That’s amore, on the menu, in a restaurant marked by tradition, invigorated by change and talent. Mangia bene. Buon appetito. Eat well and enjoy.
3145 S. Grand
Mon – Fri: 3 p.m. – 3 a.m.
Sat – Sun: 10 a.m. – 3 a.m.
Music every night starts at 11 p.m. No cover charge