Monday, February 28, 2011

Mandola's Italian Market Review

James and I found a Mandola's Italian Market near the downtown area a couple of years ago and loved it. We were super happy when we discovered that one was going to be opening in the area of the city that we frequent. On Saturday we stopped in at the newly opened Mandola's Italian Market near the CostCo on Mopac and William Cannon for an early lunch.

Pictured above is the store front at the new area. Just a little background, James and I used to watch a cooking show on PBS that was hosted by Damian Mandola and his nephew Johnny Carrabba. Yep, that's right, they started the hugely successful Carrabba's Italian restaurants. We used to love to watch the show because the two men were so funny together. When we moved to the Austin area we discovered Carrabba's and liked that really well. However, now we can't eat there because it goes against our 2011 challenge of eating at locally owned (non-national) restaurants. We can eat at Mandola's though, because although it is a chain, all three stores are in the Austin area and owned locally.

Mandola's Italian Market is not only a restaurant, it is store, a gelateria, and a bakery. Pretty cool concept, right? I wish I would have had room after lunch for some gelato, but we were stuffed!

After ordering we sat down and waited for our food. You order at a counter, get a number and put the number on a metal post on the table. Then runners bring out the food according to your assigned number. While waiting for your food, a basket of crusty bread is brought to you. Over on the side of the restaurant is a place where you can get olive oil and spices, which James put together and brought to the table. The bread is really crusty and sometimes a little hard to chew, but it is full of flavor and worth gnawing on to eat it!

James ordered the Pugliese pizza which had a thin crust dough topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, italian sausage, pan-roasted mushrooms, and shaved red onions. I think they use a fire-oven to cook their pizzas and as you can see James' got a little crusty on the edge. Despite being a little burnt on the one edge, he loved his pizza. I had a little bite and loved the smoky flavor of the crust. James liked the blend of flavors and thought that all the flavors were balanced well. His pizza cost $10.

I ordered the same thing I order every time I go to one of these restaurants the Gnocchi al Sugo. Gnocchi, if you don't know, is a yummy little potato dumpling that is cooked much like pasta. I love gnocchi, but it is often overcooked or undercooked which either makes it mushy or doughy. Thankfully, Mandola's knows how to cook the dish because it had a perfect texture! The sauce is a blend of tomato puree, pork meat, garlic, onions and basil. You will also find some fresh mozzarella balls in the mix! Oh, I love this meal! None of the flavors are overbearing and they blend together very nicely. I like to top mine with parmesan and some crushed red pepper for a little spice. The Gnocchi al Sugo is priced at $11.

The coolest part is as we were leaving we actually ran into Damian Mandola coming in to the restaurant. He chatted with us for a couple of minutes about our meal...checking to make sure we liked it. Then he was nice enough to pose for a picture with me! I was in awe because he was like I remembered him from the cooking show...loud, jovial and friendly! It definitely made my day meeting him.

If you get a chance, you should definitely have a meal at Mandola's Italian Market. Let me know how you liked it and most importantly, don't forget to invite me!!!

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2011 Challenge = Support Local Eateries

Read about our 2011 Challenge here.