Something for Everyone at MangiaJuly 23, 2012
Many people equate the term “family-friendly” in the restaurant industry with “mediocre food.” In many cases that’s very true, but it doesn’t apply to Mangia in Slingerlands. (Interesting aside: if you were to see a restaurant called “Eat,” you’d probably never even think of going there. But if you see one called “Mangia,” which means the exact same thing, you’d probably check it out. Weird.) We had been to their other location in Albany a couple of times and enjoyed the food a lot, but after it closed, we neglected the Slingerlands location for many years. But after two recent visits, not only are we comfortable reviewing the restaurant, we are also comfortable bringing our little ones there.
The relatively small dining room features dark wood booths and tables, with natural light streaming in from windows facing New Scotland Ave, along which a covered patio section sits. The somewhat dim interior does have a beacon of anticipated deliciousness – the wood-fired pizza oven. Huge orange flames are visible from the entryway, behind the open kitchen.
Both the lunch and dinner menus contain essentially the same offerings, although for lunch Mangia features a variety of panini sandwiches, and the portions are slightly smaller for lunch than dinner. Appetizers include bruschetta, fried artichokes, arancini (fried rice balls), roasted meatballs, and eggplant al forno, along with fairly traditional soups and salads like tomato bisque, Caesar salad, and antipasto. But there are a few salads that did look seasonal and interesting like the panzanella with farm bread, mozzarella, and tomatoes; the insalata Portobello features greens with grilled Portobello, sun-dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds and goat cheese; and the spring salad also looked good with field greens, raisins, sun-dried strawberries, pine nuts, and baked mozzarella.
We tried the chopped salad and a calamari special. The salad was presented beautifully, a composed mound of Romaine chopped with tomato, cucumber, red onion and Romano crisps, tossed in a Gorgonzola dressing, and topped with avocado, cashews and crumbled Gorgonzola. The dressing was proportionally accurate, no glops of excess dressing clouding the other ingredients, which tasted fresh – the sweet tomatoes and cucumbers meshed nicely with the tangy cheese, crunchy cashews, and buttery avocado. The calamari was tossed in a sweet chili sauce and served over arugula and peppadew peppers. The squid was just a bit soggy from the sauce, which was pretty sweet, but when mixed with the peppery arugula and the slight heat from the juicy peppadews, it was a great combination of flavors.
We were served freshly-baked rolls that were absolutely amazing – one could make a meal of those with a salad, easily. Hot from the oven, they were crisp on the edges and ridiculously chewy on the inside, and were served with olive oil mixed with balsamic vinegar; a nice touch.
The real downside of our last visit was that we were not shown the sandwich and panini menu, and didn’t even know they had one until we saw other customers being served panini. But the menu did look good, with offerings like the vegetable stack with fried eggplant, squash and zucchini with mozzarella; the chicken, bacon and avocado Panini, the sliced sirloin with onions, peppers and blue cheese on ciabatta, and the stuffed Portobello burger.
Mangia’s entrees are also fairly traditional for Italian food – pastas with marinara, pesto, pomodoro, carbonara, and a la vodka sauces are offered, along with grilled chicken, shrimp, and sausage; other entrees include lasagna, chicken piccata, salmon, steaks, halibut, and chicken marsala.
But the real reason to eat at Mangia is the pizza. Anytime you have a wood-fired oven, it’s hard to make a poor-tasting pizza, and Mangia doesn’t disappoint. They offer a few pre-conceived combinations, but with 39 toppings to choose from, you can make your own masterpiece. On recent visits we had three different pizzas: pepperoni with ricotta, mozzarella, provolone and blue cheese; prosciutto with sun-dried tomatoes and smoked mozzarella; and sausage with pesto and blue cheese. All three were extremely delicious. Those wood-fired ovens make the perfect crust – thin but sturdy, with just the right amount of chewiness. The ingredients all tasted fresh and looked beautiful coming out of that super-hot oven. Other interesting toppings to consider include eggplant, zucchini, caramelized onions, hot cherry peppers, pine nuts, and barbecued chicken.
Mangia knows its clientele – it’s situated in an area with a lot of families, but they did not sacrifice anything for a kid-friendly environment. All you really need to know is just by looking at the first item on their kids’ menu: sliced apples with peanut butter. I mean, for parents of a toddler, how much more can you ask for? It’s only $3, and for the peace and quiet it brings, it’s worth so much more. The MHK highly recommends that all restaurants that welcome children offer this menu item. They also have pizza and pasta for the little ones, plus really good chicken fingers – these are not frozen with that thin bread-like coating on the outside. These are freshly made and taste like grandma’s fried chicken (if your grandma is Paula Deen or someone like that).
Mangia’s prices are fairly reasonable, especially for lunch. Soups, salads and appetizers range from $4-$14 (some of the salads are offered in lunch or dinner-sized portions), pizzas run $12-$15 generally, but the price goes up with every topping you add; sandwiches will set you back $9-$12; pastas range from $7-$20 (again you can choose portion size on several of them), and entrees go from $14-$22. The kids’ items are all $6 or less.
Quality food in a family atmosphere – if that’s what you’re looking for, look to Mangia.
The Mouse House Kitchen gives Mangia 4 out of 5 stars!