Much has been written about the transformation of Mangia lately. I had never been there, so it made no difference to me. Upon entering, we were very surprised (and pleased) by the atmosphere. Not only is the bar open and friendly, the mural along one wall wild and funky, but the chairs and tables are pure 1950's kitsch. The bathrooms were not so tidy, with paint brushes and buckets scattered hither and tither, but not disgustingly. The menu here is not overwhelming, and I would venture that anyone could find something to their pleasure. Children (well-behaved ones, anyway) were welcomed.
We only ordered one appetizer - the bruschetta. It came out nicely toasted, still warm and topped with a mixture of garlic and cannelli beans. It was hummus-like and appreciated by the table. Caesar salads were obviously homemade, not that nasty white stuff that seems to pass for ceasar dressing at many restaurants these days. However, it was overly oily and heavy on the garlic. The house salad was served with a creamy oil and vineagrette, olives, onions and tomatoes. It was much lighter than the Ceasar.
Beef tenderloin was delicious, served medium rare with a mushroom risotto and a chianti perppercorn reduction sauce. One pasta dish was a garlic, olive oil, fettucini with chicken on top. The pasta was perfect but the sauce and chicken could have used some more flavoring. Talgiaterri (not sure this is the real spelling) had shrimp, lobster and wide noodles. Its diner declared it a nice balance. Again, the pasta was superb - it is made by hand at MI. Swordfish was light, flaky grilled fish with tomato sauce that included kalamata olives, capers, roasted yellow and red peppers. This was served over congliglie pasta with a pesto sauce. Although the ingredients seem too complicated, the presentation and flavors were great. Pasta Dillare was lobster, shirmp, saffron and garlic served on tagliatelle. It was enjoyed, but not wildly praised. Mangia also serveds pizza, sandwiches and more mundane selections like lasagne. MI has a full bar and a nice, affordable wine selection. No one ordered dessert, but we did stop by the south side diner for an after-dinner drink, which was fun.
All in all, Mangia Italiano is a great place to start an exploration of the South Grand dining scene.