Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mangiamo, Grand Rapids, MI

On Sunday, July 11th 2010, Isabella and I dined family-style at Mangiamo along with a group of other family members.  Sundays, Mangiamo features a special family dinner, where instead of ordering individual dishes (although that can still be done, if desired) groups may pay $10 per adult, and $5 per child to receive big bowls of communal salad, large plates with three different kinds of pasta, sides of bread with olive oil and butter, and canoli for dessert.  All of the food, save the canoli, is served as you would eat at home, by passing the bowls and plates from person to person, where everyone takes what they think they can eat.  The drinks (aside from water, of course) are extra.  This was the first time Isabella and I had ever eaten a meal at Mangiamo, since I'm not counting the time I had an appetizer there at happy hour (stewed oysters, which were actually quite nice).   The pastas served were penne with pesto and chicken, a fettuccini in cream sauce, and spaghetti with marinara and meatballs.
Let's get on with our review!

First of all, our waitress was great - she was relaxed, had a good sense of humor, and was pleasant overall.  I ordered a mojito as a second choice - they were serving Peroni in 12-ounce glasses for $1 but had just run out as I stepped foot into the establishment....too bad for me!  The mojito was okay - a little on the sweet side for me (and I'm a self-confessed sweet-tooth) which made it hard to finish.  The bread was delicious: steamy, soft and warm on the inside, a bit crusty on the outside.  Served with the bread was a plate of olive oil....with a huge slab of butter sitting in the middle.  That was a new one for me!  The oil was good, and I imagine the butter was for those who prefer it to oil, and this must have been their way of presenting both in a unique manner.  .....  ?  At first I thought the butter was a big slice of hard cheese, and was momentarily excited....but oh well... so goes disappointment!  The salad was very good, full of sliced vegetables, and croutons.  The lettuce was fresh and crispy, and appealing both to adults, who may like darker leaves, and to kids, who may prefer lighter and crispier lettuce.  It came pre-dressed, which normally I wouldn't care for, however the dressing was light and well-balanced, and not over done - in short, it was good, and I had two heaping platefuls!
Then the pasta plate came out, three different pasta preparations side-by-side, with a serving spoon.  The marinara spaghetti came with a few decorative meatballs on top, and a separate hot plate full of extra meatballs and marinara.  I tried all three, and am sad to announce that I wasn't impressed with two and a half out of the three.  They all looked delicious, which is an important part of the process of eating, and enjoying one's food.  But if the looks aren't matched by flavor, it feels somewhat like trickery, which no one likes...!  The fettucini with cream sauce had no flavor at all.  The sauce was thin, and essentially felt like slightly reduced milk - and it tasted about the same.  I had to heap loads of parmesan cheese on it just to consider it relatively edible.  The penne with "pesto" fell into a similar category, but at least was saved in part by the chicken on top, which had a decent texture and moisture, and was fairly salty (though not too much so).  Eating the penne together with slices of the chicken was the dish's saving grace.  The marinara with spaghetti was surprisingly my favorite.  The marinara was well-seasoned, tangy, savory, salty and herby, and the spaghetti was cooked well (as all the pasta was, really).  Usually marinara and spaghetti, respectively, are not my favorites.  I guess it was opposite day!  The only mixed-review was of the meatballs, which were a little too salty, and reminded me somewhat of what I imagine baked pre-made freezer-bag meatballs to be like.  I don't know if Mangiamo makes their own meatballs (as they ought to) but if they do, I didn't feel like I was eating them.  Finally, the canoli came, which were very nice, although drenched in an unnecessary amount of chocolate sauce.  The shell was nice and crispy, and I cracked it open and picked up bits of canoli shell dipped in filling (sweet, with notes of pistachio) and some chocolate sauce.  I had a coffee with cream on the side, no sugar since the canoli was plenty sweet.  The coffee was reasonably good - not very strong, but not weak either.  As we were leaving, I was not filled with the urge to plan a return visit: the majority of the food simply wasn't that great, and what was good was not better than can be found at other places.  Some may say that at $10 per adult and $5 per child it would seem that quantity of food would deem it reasonable.  My opinion is that in order for it to be a good deal, the food has to be good - not just the price! I think I'll stick to appetizers at happy hour in the future.....

When we went to Mangiamo I was very excited. The second I sat down I knew the food was going to be great . And it was ! The first thing we had was a salad . It was crunchy and fresh  and  delicious. The only thing I didn't like about the salad is that they over-did the dressing a bit, other than that it was really good . The  second thing we had was bread ,butter, and dip.The crust was really thick but the inside was soft and steamy. :-) .the third thing I ate was fettucini with alfredo, spaghetti with marinara sauce w/ meatballs,and penne w/ pesto and chicken.I LOVED the meatballs! they were really flavorful . the pasta was good but the alfredo was flavorless. It was okay :-[. The last thing I ate was canoli . It was crispy and excellent. The filling was creamy and chilly . There was sweet cream on the side and chocolate  syrup . My experience was pleasing.If I could  rate it it would be 5.5!

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