In the fading light of dusk along East 13th Street, a bright light appears: Mandolino Ristorante and Pizzeria. Opened this year in January, it is a new treasure in the neighborhood.
As you walk through the doorway, an immediate feeling of warmth engulfs you. Among the coziness of the wood tables, the checkered napkins, and multi-textured ceiling, there is a friendly hustle and bustle, and an aroma of herbs and spices that add to the atmosphere.
The gracious welcome of Carolina, one of the co-owners, only enhances the feel.
I began the evening with a glass of wine. The Mandolino wine list pairs nicely with the menu selection and is more than reasonably priced. I had the Casata Parini Montepulciano D’Abruzzo a smooth, full-bodied red that proved to be the perfect complement to the first dish, La bufalina, a firm creamy portion of buffalo mozzarella cheese, served with arugula and prosciutto, a dry cured ham with a salty tenderness to it. The presentation itself was beautiful.
Next I had one of my all-time favorite dishes, Linguine alle vongole: linguine with sautéed manila clams. Mandolino Ristorante did not disappoint.
The dish had a velvety finish to it. Often times there is too much oil in the preparation but the balance of flavor, the garlic and fresh herbs, was delightful. Executive Chef Antonio Resvan Costa explained, “I cook the pasta in the clams and olive oil, and finish with Italian parsley.” As not to waste a bit of it, I dipped the pheasant bread that accompanied my meal in the last of my portion; ahh, culinary bliss.
As I waited for the next entrée, my waiter, Ottavio continued to be hospitable, knowledgeable and attentive. I asked him if he was related to the owners or chefs, and with a flash of an endearing smile he responded, “We have the Italian blood.”
The next entrée arrived as a special dish not found on the menu. It was a medley of octopus, mussels and shrimp, simmered in cherry tomatoes, olive oil and white wine. The result was a rich seafood combination. The flavors stood up boldly but yet blended in an appetizing blend.
As Chef Antonio shared, “The food is simple, so there is no room to mess up.” He went on to explain his passion for the ingredient themselves, and his cooking style that creates the dishes themselves. His passion adds to the warmth and welcome. And although not related to Carolina and Chef Agostino, he adds, “I feel I’m home here.”
I’d have to agree.
As I waited for dessert, the friendliness and warmth that I experienced upon arrival continued throughout the evening.
The feel is one of family. And, at the heart of Mandolino is just that: family.
Owner (founder) Pizza Chef Agostino Cangiano and his wife Carolina, became not only business partners but friends with Cesar and Mary Guevara. Cesar and Mary also know Carolina’s family.
Carolina describes the journey of opening the restaurant as one of “bumping into angels” along the way. Ironically the when the tiramisu arrived, and I took a bite of the coffee soaked ladyfingers, the milky sweet, buttery flavor of mascarpone cheese and the dusting of cocoa, and I could only think one thing, “heavenly.”
Take some time and join Mandolina on their journey. Stop in for lunch or dinner, savor the good food, and enjoy the welcome of family.
Kate E. O’Hara is a New York based freelance writer and photographer who loves all things food—especially the people who make it and market it. Her writing aims to capture the essence of the food experience; the stories that go well beyond a plate of ingredients. In addition to her love of food, Kate is also known to have a hankering for red wine and craft beer.