Debuting last November in Gulfport, Mangiamo Italian Restaurant already is making waves with its mouthwatering dishes and cozy ambiance. It’s quickly becoming a go-to spot for foodies and casual diners alike.
The restaurant is a family-owned business that opened under the guidance of Matthew Piper Sr. and brothers Matthew Piper Jr. and James Piper, who also have owned and operated the Italian Grill and Pizzeria in Picayune since 2008. Having spent time on the Coast while growing up, they always envisioned expanding to this area. After seeing a dirt pad where the restaurant now sits, they all agreed it would be the perfect place for their latest endeavor.
Mangiamo has a modern interior filled with natural light from the large windows surrounding the restaurant, showcasing a view of Bayou Bernard. It’s an ideal setting for any occasion, from a romantic date to a family night out.
“We offer a family-friendly, casual, fine- dining atmosphere with an amazing staff who want you to feel like you’re at home,” James says. “At Mangiamo, we want to build that relationship with our guests that keep them coming back for more.”
The menu at Mangiamo is a delightful mix of classic Italian dishes and creative, modern twists. The Pipers’ original business partner at the Grill and Pizzeria was a native Italian, and they still use those authentic, regional recipes while continuing to expand on them. You’ll find everything from traditional favorites like fettuccine alfredo to unique creations like the veal saltimbocca, which features a thinly sliced veal cutlet with prosciutto and sage, finished in a wine demi-glaze over your choice of pasta.
“We don’t claim to be a traditional Italian restaurant,” says bar manager Melissa Michelli. “Sure, you can find traditional Italian dishes on our menu, but for some of these, we’ve added a little of our own flair. I get a kick out of individuals who say, ‘This doesn’t taste like back home,’ and I say, ‘You’re right. You’re not back home; you’re on the Coast.”
Mangiamo is an Italian phrase that means “let’s eat,” and eat we certainly did when my girlfriend Lauryn and I visited recently. We began by sipping on tasty key lime martinis while waiting for our food to arrive.
We kicked off our meal with a classic Italian appetizer, the bruschetta. The first bite was a burst of flavor. The freshly grilled bread was topped with marinated heirloom tomatoes, fresh spring greens, shaved parmesan cheese and a balsamic reduction drizzle. The combination of flavors was perfect and a refreshing way to start our experience.
Next up was the beef carpaccio, a delightful dish for which we’ve already made a second visit. The paper-thin slices of raw filet mignon shaved into 12 medallions of beef were topped with lemon aioli, a balsamic glazed drizzle, parmesan cheese shavings, arugula and fried cappers. The dish was light and refreshing with a bold flavor that lingered on the palate.
We then met with Chef Aaron Yarbrough, whom I learned was taught to cook Italian by a sweet, little lady from Florence, Italy. He brought us out a plate of mussels, which were cooked to perfection in a spicy tomato broth with added sambuca, a licorice-flavored liqueur used to start the cooking process and open the shells. The flavors of the garlic and herbs made for a perfectly balanced sauce that was equal amounts sweet and heat, and the mussels themselves were plump and juicy.
For the main course, we had a few different pasta dishes, all of which were carefully prepared, and the quality of the ingredients was evident with every bite. Lauryn especially enjoyed the crawfish jubilee, rigatoni pasta tossed with fresh crawfish tails in a spicy homemade Alfredo sauce. I was a big fan of the traditional spaghetti and meatballs, which that uses made-in-house focaccia bread as a binder in the perfectly tender meatballs. We also enjoyed the five- layered lasagna, which features house- made Bolognese and fennel sausage and delicious ricotta and mozzarella cheeses.
To cap off our meal, we indulged in cannoli and tiramisu for dessert. The cannoli were filled with a creamy, orange whipped ricotta cheese mixture with chocolate chips, and the tiramisu had light and fluffy layers of espresso-soaked ladyfingers and mascarpone cheese. Both were expertly crafted and prepared with care — the perfect ending to a fantastic meal.
“The menu at Mangiamo is a delightful mix of classic Italian dishes and creative, modern twists.”
Mangiamo is open daily from 11 a.m.- 8 p.m. besides being closed on Tuesdays and closing at 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Be sure to check the restaurant’s Facebook page for information on brunch offerings. The current happy hour is Monday-Friday from 4-6 p.m., which includes $4 house wines and $3 domestic beer. Gluten-free pizza and pasta options are available upon request.