Monday, April 7, 2014

Date Night in Orchard Park

Growing up in Orchard Park, there weren't an over abundance of restaurants located in the heart of the Village. Your choices were limited mostly to Jemiolo's and the Orchard Downs, neither of which were all that enticing. Today in the Village, there are many more dining options that are both varied and of high quality. My wife dined at one of these places on a recent weekend - Mangia Ristorante and Caffe.

We've dined at Mangia several times over the past few years. It occupies an historic building at the Four Corners in the Village of Orchard Park. The building was wonderfully renovated by the Ricotta family and now offers a dark, bustling vibe which  goes well with the Italian cuisine. The second floor has now become a chic lounge which we've already enjoyed on several occasions, including after the meal I'm about to tell you about. For now, however, I'll resign myself to discussing the delicious meal we had downstairs.

We arrived around 6:00 p.m. on a Saturday without a reservation, hopeful we could get a table without an excessive wait. The restaurant was very busy, but we were able to get a seat at one of the high top tables in the barroom. It took some time to look over the lengthy menu that offers six categories - Minestre (soups), Insalate (Salads), Antipasti, Pizza, Pasta and Carne e Pesce (Meat and Fish). My wife ultimately chose to start with the "Wedge Insalata" ($8) and then selected the "Francaise" [a misspelled Italian word] with chicken ($18). I opted to start with the Insalata Oliva [Olive Salad] ($8) and then went with the Penne Boscaiola ($17).

As my wife enjoyed a cocktail and I, a glass of wine, a bread basket arrived:

As you can see, the basket contained standard Italian bread, along with some homemade focaccia with caramelized onions. The focaccia was well-made and the light tomato sauce went very well with the onions. A great way to start the meal.

After a short wait, the salads arrived. My wife's was first:

As you can see, the wedge was a typical heart of romaine lettuce topped with bacon, onions, tomatoes, gorgonzola cheese and ranch dressing. The lettuce was fresh and the dressing was better than I'd expected. My wife enjoyed the start to her meal.

This was my salad:

This one is for the olive lovers! It featured several different varieties of olives, red onions, capers and celery, all tossed in extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar. It was garnished with shaved parmigiano reggiano and a balsamic glaze. This salad is very reminiscent of the one my grandmother used to make. The briny olives pair perfectly with the crunch and mild celery and onion. The bite from the vinegar and the sweetness of the balsamic glaze balanced all the salinity. My only complaint was that there wasn't enough celery - the salad needed that crunch and balance with the olives. That said, it was great and I'll order it next time I'm in.

Shortly after our salad course was cleared, our entrees began arriving. This was my wife's chicken:

Misspelling aside, this dish stayed true to its Italian American heritage. The chicken was pounded thinly, coated in the traditional preparation of egg and romano cheese. It was then lightly pan fried. It was moist and flavorful. It was served atop linguine with an alfredo butter. The pasta was lighter than it sounds and the entire dish was very tasty. 

This was my pasta:

Penne Boscaiola or Penne "in the style of the hunter" is a traditional Italian dish that I've made several times before. It features sausage, mushrooms, peas and a light cream sauce. This version was delicious and had the welcome addition of tomato to the sauce. The only problem was that the entire dish was very bland. I asked for salt and pepper shakers and after adding some of their contents to my dish, it was delicious. It was a huge portion and I couldn't even eat half. It was even better the second day!

Our date night featured another good meal at Mangia. I've always enjoyed the food and the dark vibe of the bustling restaurant. I also enjoy that it's so close to home and that it has a great lounge upstairs. It's a great place for a complete date night and on that night, we took full advantage. We'll be back again.


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