Sunday, April 28, 2013

Mancini Modern Italian

Jack is Back! And he's back with a vengeance. Mentioning Restaurateur Jack Mancini on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale is nothing short of bringing up a household name.  After a decade of success and loyal clientele at Mancini's, his previous iconic East Las Olas eatery which closed in 2011 when the lease expired, he has returned with a new take on his Italian flair.

With charming restaurateur Jack Mancini

Fast forward to the present. The west side of the downtown business district of Las Olas is now beaming with popularity and growth, and you can go out there on any given night and the streets are filled with a lively crowd enjoying the South Florida nightlife. Mancini saw this opportunity and opened his most recent venture: Mancini Modern Italian at 401 E. Las Olas Blvd, Suite 105. Just off the main street, Mancini's new upscale spot features his signature contemporary Italian cuisine with some bold new twists. The first thing I noticed when I walked up to the restaurant was the indoor/outdoor white, Cararra marble bar that separates the outdoor eating area from the sleek, modern dining room. Inside, sophistication reigns supreme, with custom stone work, wood-beamed ceilings, and chic lighting. The seating includes custom banquettes, two hi-top communal tables and a semi-private chef's booth sporting an interesting sign reading "Wine Me Dine Me".  My thoughts exactly.


Executive Chef Claudio Sandri is at the helm of Mancini's kitchen. A native of Torino, Italy, with a Midas touch with food, he and Mancini go way back, since Sandri also worked at his first restaurant. Sandri is a celebrity of sorts, possessing over 30 years of culinary experience in Italy, Central America and the U.S. and having worked with celebrity Chef Roberto Donna for over eight years at the acclaimed Galileo in Washington D.C. He even  appeared with him on an episode of the Food Network's Iron Chef. (In case you were wondering, the duo beat Chef Masaharu Morimoto on the episode.) 

Executive Chef Claudio Sandri and Sous Chef Edwin

Confession: We ate a
few before clicking.
Tuscan wood-burning oven
Upon sitting down, guests are welcomed with a basket of Ciabatta Italian bread and warm, crispy breadsticks, served with a homemade whipped butter infused with garlic. I must tell you that we couldn't keep our hands out of the breadsticks even long enough to take the picture. They are unbelievable.  Made in the restaurant's authentic wood-burning Tuscan brick oven, these babies are crisp, perfectly seasoned and absolutely addicting.  I have only one suggestion: Please package these and sell them. I could imagine myself biting into them one by one at home as I watch a marathon of The Godfather 1, 2, 3 and 4. Mancini, what's a girl gotta do for a lifetime supply of these salty temptations?

Sous Chef Edwin is smiling and so is the mozzarella

Table Side Hand Pulled Mozzarella
Oh that looks good!
You know how you have guacamole made tableside at Mexican restaurants? Well here at Mancini's you have Mozarella made tableside. We started with the "Table-Side" Hand Pulled Mozzarella, a fun, experience where we got an up-close-and-personal look at Edwin, the sous chef, as he explained each step in the process (He's got magic hands.) The end result was an incredibly creamy, delicious cheese bathed in our choice of light, medium or hello! olive oil, balsa
mic vinegar, salt and pepper. The flavor of the mozzarella was enhanced even further by the delicious homemade pesto and pomodoro fresco it was served with.


Tuna Crudo
Stuffed Squid Squid "Al Forno"
Throughout his trips to culinary hot spots like New York and San Francisco, Mancini noticed that crudo was an emerging favorite on menus. He decided to incorporate several choices into his, like Tuna, Salmon and Red Snapper crudos and Lobster and Beef Carpaccio. He has plans to add more very soon. Our next course was the Tuna Crudo, a light Italian version of the raw fish served with fennel, frisee, capers and an original ingredient: anchovy-garlic vinaigrette. The addition certainly infused another flavor profile to the dish that stood out. It was different and flavorful. Following this course, we indulged in the Stuffed Squid "Al Forno". One of our favorites of the night, it was 50 shades of delicious with its sopressata and  smoked tomato, served over cannelini beans, oregano and parsley.

Pappardelle Pasta


Pistachio-Crusted Rack of Lamb
Dessert Time
Next up, we had the homemade Pappardelle pasta with rabbit sugo in a demi-glaze reduction, topped with a delicate white truffle foam. From the minute the dish arrived, I was enthralled by the alluring aroma. The taste was just as impressive. As we sat back and took in the awesomeness of the meal so far, our waiter, Joe W., arrived with our next course: Pistachio- Crusted Rack of Lamb. As he did with each previous dish, he explained the preparation that went into it. I have to stop here and say that Joe was amazing the whole evening, paying close attention to detail. Service at Mancini Modern Italian is exemplary. But back to my Maria had a little lamb...this one was cooked to perfection. Tender and seasoned just right, it was served with parsnip puree, braised pistachio and drizzled with lamb jus. I loved the crunchy texture the pistachios added to the lamb. As dessert arrived on the table, I was excited to see what was in store. We had the Bomboloni Italian and the Strawberry & Orange Biscotti Panzanella. The Bombolini Italian was an assortment of golden brown beignets with sweet espresso panna cotta.  Molto delizioso finale italiano. The Strawberry & Orange Biscotti Panzanella was a medley of basil macerated strawberries and bread cubes with mint and balsamic drizzle. Although I'm not a fan of fruit for dessert, it was refreshing and light.

You'll be happy to know Mancini Modern Italian is open for both lunch and dinner. Once you try it the first time, you'll dream of returning right away. I know I did. For more information, you can visit them online at http://www.mancinilasolas.com.


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