For what it does, Mangia in Annapolis does it well.
A somewhat casual eatery, Mangia serves up tasty Italian favorites without much pomp or circumstance.
This is OK, because Main Street has more than enough over-the-top restaurants.
Mangia, which opened almost a year ago, boasts a charming takeout delicatessen and pizzeria on the first floor, and an old-fashioned wooden bar on the second. Its dark green tablecloths, laminated menus and brick decor add to the laid-back atmosphere.
The food, including gourmet pizza, a dozen pasta dishes, veal dinners and seafood dishes, makes a visit worthwhile.
Owner Pete Priola, who also owns Maria's Italian Ristorante on City Dock, swears that all his recipes come from his mother's kitchen. His secret, he says, is using only fresh ingredients.
On a recent weekday evening, a friend and I showed up at Mangia just after 8 p.m. and were seated right away in the half-full dining area upstairs.
Our waitress was friendly and outgoing but a little confused about the details of the menu. She later explained that it was her first night.
We decided to try two appetizers: fried ravioli for $4.95, because it seemed traditional, and crab balls for $6.95, because we were in Annapolis. Both were good-sized portions and tasty.
We then ordered the seafood salad for $8.25, which also got a thumbs-up. The dish was piled with mussels, clams, calamari, scungilli and shrimp sauteed in olive oil and white wine. The sauce was perfectly seasoned and light enough to allow the individual tastes of the seafood to come out.
For entrees, we ordered the shrimp marinara for $14.95 and a medium quatro stagioni pizza for $16.50 -- and had enough left over for two additional meals.
The pizza, hands down, took the prize for good food. Topped with artichoke hearts, red, yellow and green peppers, mushrooms, prosciuttini and olive oil, it was flavorful, with just the right amount of sauce and cheese. The crust was light, flaky and hand-rolled.
Our food bill, without tip, came to $50.80. Four glasses of Clos du Bois wine came to $30. We'd return, even if it was just to pick up a pizza from the delicatessen.
Where: 81 Main St., Annapolis. 410-268-1350
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11: 30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m. to midnight weekends. Delicatessen: 11 a.m. to 11: 30 p.m. weekdays, 2 p.m. to 2: 30 a.m. weekends.
Prices: Appetizers, $3.25-$8.95; entrees, $7.25-$16.95
Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express
Ratings: * culinary wasteland
**** culinary heaven
Pub Date: 3/19/98