Our regular food blogger meet-up brought us to “Mangia”, which came highly recommended by David of @pickydiner fame. He had recently met the owner at an event, and found himself impressed with his pedigree from Sicily. So we assembled for what we hoped would be an authentic Italian meal.

I have actually been to this refurbished house turned restaurant once before. But only briefly, as part of a Vancouver Foodster tasting tour. I was impressed enough to want to come back, and today was as good of a day as any. Especially with 4 other food enthusiasts in tow.

You walk up the front steps and enter through the door on the porch. Inside, the restaurant is warm literally and figuratively. The bar faces the entrance, and the dining area follows it, wrapping around the corner. Brick walls painted white, framed family photos, and as many narrow tables as the single floor allowed.

Our boisterous group (mostly because of me) were seated intimately at the very back. Where, our night began with a welcome glass of bubbles, which myself and David followed with two more cocktails.

 

The “Sicilian mocha” was a lovely spiked coffee, which would have also served as a nice aperitif. Vodka, averna, espresso, and chocolate. Light on the coffee, for those who like the flavour, but not its bitterness or caffeine.

The “Gin botanico” in contrast was a delicate cocktail with lemon and floral notes. A mix of pomegranate tea infused gin, tonic, and spices.

As for food, we ran through the menu as a group, ordering an item from each of the categories. Antipasti, L’Insalata, La Pasta, Il Risotto, and La Pizza.

Today’s starter special was a burrata salad made with arugula, prosciutto, Parmesan crusted croutons, and a whole round of burrata cheese; all drizzled in vinaigrette of aged balsamic reduction. This was a fresh start, simple and clean with the salty meat, creamy cheese, and crunchy croutons. It was exactly as expected.

The “Carpaccio di polpo” was declared as a “must try” on the menu. This was thinly sliced, slow cooked octopus, with salad leaves and an lemon oil vinaigrette. It ate more like a salad with the oiled up greens, fresh tomatoes, and briny olives. The highlight was the baby octopus, deep fried as a whole. I would have liked more of it with the salad, instead of the carpaccio. Nothing was wrong with it, it was just not memorable, nor did I get much octopus flavour from it.

Seeing it arrived at the table next to ours, we too wanted and ordered the “Arancina bomba”. A giant, twice cooked saffron risotto ball filled with mozzarella and topped with a pistachio pesto. This was quite the presentation. Easy to cut into and divide between 5. But the centre was mushy from the melted cheese, whereas you wanted a more firm risotto to parallel with its crispy shell. Texture aside, it served as a decent base, I just wanted something meatier and heartier to enjoy with it.

It is advised that you eat the “Spaghetti carbonara” right away; less it congeals and you lose the firmness of the noodle and the creaminess of its sauce. Parmesan cheese, black pepper, and locally cured guanciale in egg. Tasty, but I just wanted more of the pork meat for taste and salt.

The “Frutti di mare” delivered a bounty of seafood. Arborio rice with clams, mussels, prawns, and squid; cooked in white wine and a fish stock reduction. It is very fishy thanks to the stock, where as I would have liked it more garlicky. A milder risotto flavour, to be able to make out the individual mollusks.

The “Diavola” was a tomato sauce base pizza, topped with mozzarella, spicy Italian salami, and black olives. It was a decent pie, but not outstanding. The dough was moist, whereas I expected more crispiness from a thin crust, along with some blistering. It was also a little too salty for my taste, thanks to the cured meat and briny olives. I could have drizzled on some olive oil to help neutralize, but found it already plenty oily with pools of it on the pizza’s surface.

For dessert, we shared one of each of the options, minus the scoop of gelato available. Their “Tiramisu” was a single serving round, made more fun with a shot of amaretto on the side. You could drink it as is, but the intention is to pour it over the cake. The cake soaked it up like a sponge, and what was left over you could lap up like sauce. The 2oz gave the dessert a kick, but increased the dessert’s naturally soggy texture. The rest was traditionally done with mascarpone cheese, espresso, ladyfingers, and cocoa.

I am not a fan of soggy textures, so preferred the “Sicilian cannolo al pistachio” for its crunch instead. A house made pastry shell filled with sweet ricotta mousse, then topped with pistachio cream and a pistachio crumble. It tasted fresh made, and wasn’t too sweet. This would have been great with tea.

We were all in awe cutting into the “Torta di limoncello”, not knowing what to expect. It wasn’t the “Fluffy cake” the menu described, but more a firm sponge filled with limoncello cream, and covered with white chocolate and almonds. The lemon was beautifully fragranced. Tart and refreshing, this made for a great palette refresher to end our meal on.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Off the beaten path, the setting and the serving of this cozy restaurant makes it a great spot for authentic Sicilian. I definitely recommend this one as a unique date spot worth checking out. Don’t deny your cravings.

MANGIA
2211 Manitoba St, Vancouver, BC V5Y 1K1
(604) 620-5445
mangiacucina.com