Mangia is where the action is

October 08, 1998|By Kathryn Higham | Kathryn Higham,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

We were surrounded by white at Mangia, and I don't mean the tablecloths. This sports-themed Italian bistro was full of midshipmen when we visited.

It was Parents' Weekend at the Naval Academy, so we saw lots of students and their folks dipping soft bread into the plates of cheese- and pepper-seasoned olive oil that Mangia puts on each table.

Owner Pietro Priola has come up with a recipe that appeals to tourists and locals, as well as students: Serve good food at reasonable prices in a congenial atmosphere. People will come.

Mangia, which opened in May of 1997, sits right in the center of the action on Main Street, opposite the City Dock. That makes it a convenient spot to grab a pizza slice from the downstairs carryout.

Upstairs, there's a small bar and the main seating area, decorated with signed posters, jerseys and other sports paraphernalia. But Mangia has a certain refinement that suits this historic city, from its dark green walls to its polished fireplace mantel.

Our young server, who managed to carry our food upstairs on a big tray without spilling a drop, recommended the ravioli Florentine as one of the restaurant's most popular dishes. We could see why. It tasted as good as it looked, and it was drop-dead gorgeous: pink tomato cream against a pillow of jewel-bright steamed spinach, the cheese ravioli tossed with peas and tiny squares of prosciutto and roasted peppers.

Just as beautiful was the Mangia salad, ringed by red radicchio leaves. We couldn't quite taste the flavor of the raspberry-hazelnut vinaigrette, perhaps because the arugula and Gorgonzola were so wonderfully assertive. The salad also was tossed with romaine, pine nuts and yellow and red bell peppers.

Besides calzone, sausage roll and stromboli options, there's a whole list of brick-oven gourmet pizzas to explore at Mangia. We had our pizza topped with a chunky marinara, onions, red peppers and mushrooms. The crust was thin and had a crisp bottom and a chewy texture.

Pasta e fagioli usually is served as a thick soup of cannellini beans, but we liked the thinner, tomato-based variation at Mangia. The little beads of ditalini pasta were traditional. The bits of broccoli weren't, and they added a novel vegetable flavor to the soup.

The rest of our meal was fairly mediocre: herb-battered zucchini sticks that were a little greasy; tiramisu with cream that tasted like the refrigerator; and a hot seafood appetizer that needed a better mix of shellfish. We would have gladly traded the two big chowder clams for a few littlenecks and the unappealing scungilli for more than the one shrimp we got.

Linguine with sauteed chicken breast, thin circles of Italian sausage and lemony-tasting garlic-wine broth missed, but mainly because the sausage was lackluster.

Overall, though, we were content with our meal, which ended with a particularly good cannoli, full of thick ricotta cream flavored with cinnamon and chocolate chips.

Mangia

81 Main St., Annapolis.

410-268-1350

Hours: Open daily for lunch and dinner

Credit cards: All major credit cards

Prices: Appetizers, $3.25-8.95; entrees, $5.95-$16.95

Food: ** 1/2

Service: ** 1/2

Atmosphere: *

Ratings system: Outstanding: ****; Good ***; Fair or uneven **; Poor *

Pub Date: 10/08/98

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