Mangio Pasta & Bottega is St. Paul's newest addition to the Italian quarter of the city. Not interested in competing, but remaining different from the chains, this independent is a breath of fresh Italian air, fragrant with basil, mozzarella di buffalo, and that unmistakeable handmade dough.
Mangio cafe/restaurant is quiet, clean, and simple. Think of a fresh, small, but roomy restaurant-cum-cafe that on the surface seems an unassuming space, but the pasta, not to mention the service, holds the ability to put a smile on every customer's face. And as the chef, Omar Casali, reiterated, Mangio's is about making food with love in your heart, and with your 'fingertips'.
When I got the chance to speak with Casali, he shared that the love for producing quality cuisine he'd be happy to eat, is only part of the joy of his new venture.
He has a restaurant back home in Italy but London is a new playing field. You'll find Mangio in the Italian quarter of St. Paul's. A five minute (if that), walk from the infamous cathedral and mere minutes from the Millenium Bridge, it is tucked back off the street, but bright and open, it beckons like a welcome home.
Omar urges that it is about simple food done well, but I can't help but think the food is achingly modern with the pesto made with almonds instead of pine nuts because of a happy accident that resulted in a sweeter pesto. I call it clever.
Speaking of the food, the pasta is all handmade on the pasta table adjacent to the chill cabinets and right on the shop floor. Unlike other Italian places where the pasta might be good, everything here is hand made. Omar shared that they use a pasta stretcher, simply to flatten and thin out pasta that would otherwise be an extremely lengthy process without the luxury of time, but every other detail is completed by hand. Now I was impressed because the tagliatelle was ruler-straight, the ravioli picture perfect, and the gnocchi, oh, don't get me started.
I got to try the specials. It is worth noting the spinach ricotta broccoli and crumb ravioli is always on the menu, but the fillings may change as per customer requests and, of course, with the seasons.
So, the gnocchi. Having recently reignited my love for Italian food, I was hoping it would be good. I needn't have bothered even hoping because Omar was superb in the kitchen. In a matter of minutes I saw him cook the gnocchi 'al dente' and serve both the pumpkin with ground sausage and pesto gnocchi. It took less than 3 minutes, so if you're in a rush, don't worry, you'll be served great food, quickly.
Instead of potato gnocchi Omar created the olive gnocchi. I'd only enjoyed potato gnocchi, but this was something else. Generously sized chunks of gnocchi were presented oh so prettily for me and the pasta was cooked to perfection. It was bella. A slight sweetness to the pesto made the gnocchi an absolute joy to eat.
The pumpkin gnocchi melted my heart; sweet, moreish, flavoursome and paired with the ground sausage this al dente pasta was the perfect remedy for the cold weather.
Mangio is ideal for lunch time because it serves proper food that is ready to eat in minutes. The meals are cheap, considering the affluent area. There are no tricks however, a meal deal starts at £5.80 and rises to £7.50. For the quality of food, I'd call that a bargain.
If you'd like to prepare some of the meals in the cafe/restaurant at home, Mangio sells made-that-day pasta for £4.50 and provides you with a little recipe card for guidance.
I've fallen for this place and I'm already planning my trip back.