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Just 'eat' Mangia lives up to its name with a wide variety of dishes

Mangia is a great name for a restaurant, no matter which language you speak. The word means "eat," of course -- and there's nothing like getting down to essentials.

This large place is about essentials. Plus more. It opened this summer in the very center of the village and operates on two levels. The first one is casual. The cafe is open long hours, offering standards like salads and wraps; and panini, subs and basic pastas.

After 4 p.m., the ristorante comes into play with an elaborate menu of appetizers, more involved pastas as well as dinner entrees of meat and seafood. We went the ristorante route, where the appetizer section is extensive. Everything from antipasto plates, bruschettas and Stuffed Eggplant (filled with a ricotta and topped with tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella, $7).

There are mussels and calamari and, most notably, a thin-crusted pizza that changes daily. It's called Pizza del Cuoco and sells for $6.

Tomato, feta cheese and olives topped the crisp crust. One note: Though the pizza is described as an individual size, it really can feed two people or stand as a light meal on its own. We ended up taking half of it with us.

Some other choices: Insalata Mangia ($10) is based on mesclun greens, piled high with roasted red and yellow peppers, artichoke hearts ad gorgonzola. There's a Caprese Salad and a Caesar, too. Even the house salad ($4) is worthy.

The bread tray, though, was a downer. Composed mostly of standard, soft, Italian white. More imagination is needed here.

During the dinner hour, the pasta list is full of variations. (These are full-size pastas, not meant to be be the primo course.) Penne alla Vodka ($14); Fettucine with Italian Sausage, Mushrooms, Peas and Red Onions in a Tomato Parmesan Sauce is called Fettucine Boscaiola and goes for $13.

And you'll note Ravioli Rosa filled with spinach and ricotta and even whole wheat pasta, a definite sign of the times. It's called Spaghetti Integrali and is sauted with spinach, fava and cannellini beans -- with some caramelized onion and pancetta in case you're worrying about getting too healthy.

And of course there are the standards -- Spaghetti Bolognese and Spaghetti with Clams.

We went for the entrees, listed on the menu under "Second Courses." Veal Satimbocca ($18) was tasty, the medallions served flat rather than than rolled with the classic prosciutto and sage. The lemon-wine sauce was gentle.

As was an evening special, two loin lamb chops, thickly cut and pepped up with roasted garlic and tomatoes.

Other entrees include a salmon steak grilled and finished with capers and red wine (Trancio di Salmone) and Pagello Livornese, broiled snapper with black olives. Note a charcoal-grilled steak, Costate di Manzo, with roasted garlic parmesan mashed potatoes for $23.

Even the boneless chicken breast gets special treatment. Pollo Selvatico ($14) is sauteed with wild mushrooms and caramelized onions and served in white wine sauce.

The dessert list is nowhere near as extensive as the rest of the menu, with most of the offerings prepared outside the house. The cannoli, though, is made right in the kitchen. Order the ones dipped in chocolate.

Another plus: The coffee-flavored gelato is filled with crunchy roasted coffee beans.

MANGIA RISTORANTE & CAFFE

Review: 3 stars (Out of 4)

WHERE: 4264 N. Buffalo Road, Orchard Park (662-9467). A large, attractive restaurant in the very center of the village, specializing in Italian cuisine. Both formal and informal food is available. Credit Cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa.

FAVORITE DISH: Pizza del Cuoco -- thin-crusted pizza appetizer

NEEDS WORK: Bread tray

PRICE RANGE: Dinner entrees from $15 include sides. Pastas from $11.

SERVICE: Very good

NOISE LEVEL: Moderate

HOURS: Open daily at 11 a.m. Dinner menu served after 4 p.m.

HEALTHY CHOICES: Many pastas; Pagello Livornese (broiled snapper); Trancio di Salmone (grilled salmon steak)

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes

PARKING: Parking lot in rear

KID APPEAL: Plenty to choose from in the caffe section.

e-mail: jokun@buffnews.com

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