What if you had an uncle Nick who loved to cook? And what if he stretched out long tables, covered them with linens and candles, and filled them with family and friends…and soon to be friends? And then, what if he seduced you for an entire evening with an endless succession of authentic Italian dishes, any one of which is worthy of an ode? And, imagine this: What if music had been his livelihood and he loved to belt out tunes while whisking his lovely bride around the dining room? Would you want to be part of an evening like that?
Welcome to Mangia Nashville!
Mike and I shared a table with Jen, Cathy, Scott, and the
Presbyterian pescatarian. (Someone at the table misunderstood when he said he was a pescatarian and thought he said Presbyterian. We had so much fun with this, I have forgotten his actual name. Sorry!) We laughed and told stories and oooed and ahhhhed over each delectable creation as it came to us.
ANTIPASTI: We began with beautiful roasted red peppers graced with balsamic reduction and golden raisins. Then, against the gentle sweetness of the peppers, we were served fried olives stuffed with cheese. Crispy, salty, and wonderful. When our waiter delivered the mozzarella carrozza (mozzarella in a carriage) we all stopped eating and just gazed at it. Mouths watering. Crunchy breadcrumbs were the perfect counterpoint to soft, warm, rich mozzarella. An ornament of marinara completed the delirium. A table favorite. Finally there was Bruschetta served with Tuscan white bean dip. *Hint: if you still have red peppers, they are yummy with this.
INSALATA: A very good, authentic Caesar salad seemed almost anticlimactic after all this. But the arugula with citrus and shaved Parmesan was noteworthy.
PASTA: The rigatoni with beef short-rib Bolognese was delivered with a reminder to “pace yourselves”. This was the dish Scott had been most looking forward to, and it did not disappoint. The sauce was rich, but with an artful restraint. Then. Oh, then! Homemade potato gnocchi in pecan basil pesto cream sauce. I am salivating even now as I type the words. This was the dish Mike and I had both been dreaming of. Oh! My!! Soft little pillows of heaven so light they almost seemed to be made of vapor. Delicious vapor. Decadently dressed in a sauce that only added to the illusion you were eating the stuff of the gods. At this point I defied any dish to compare.
Perhaps I spoke too soon…
ENTRATA: First up of the entrees was a lovely rosemary lemon chicken that might very well be the star of most culinary explorations. But, you understand our palate had been so elevated by this point that we were quite snobbish. We sampled. We liked. But we had become serious about the pacing thing. Besides, we knew what was next… Veal osso buco over polenta. If there was a single pinnacle of the evening…and it seems almost blasphemous to even say that…this would be it. Every particle of the veal had been infused with the braising liquor. Even the bone marrow was scrumptious. Tender flesh against creamy rich polenta made for bites that had to be contemplated slowly. Lingered over. Treasured. Our pescatarian was, of course, happy to see the shrimp scampi. Jumbo shrimp in a refreshing lemon butter sauce made for a nice close to the savory portion of our meal.
DOLCE: It is lovely to be able to see the dishes as they line them up on the counter. You can begin feasting with your eyes before the rest of your senses get in on the action. Perhaps the most delightful to contemplate from afar was the St. Joseph’s pastry, a special offering that night in honor of the feast day of San Giuseppe (husband of Mary, earthly father of Jesus). Lighter than air pastry filled with cool, subtly sweetened ricotta. Yum! And finally, hot, fragrant zeppole served in a bag of confectioner’s sugar, just as you would buy them on a street corner in New York. I read a suggestion that this makes them a convenient take-home offering. Yeah, whatever.
Other bits and pieces: The Godfather plays soundlessly throughout dinner. At any time, if Nick is visiting your table, you can ask him to recite the dialogue and he will kindly, and passionately oblige. We asked. He obliged. He was fabulous!! We sang. We clapped. Mike and I were toasted because we were celebrating an anniversary. And in case your Italian is rusty, mangia means “to eat”.
Mangia Nashville is an experience. An experience of culinary artistry. An experience of family and friendship. An experience of joy.
Saturday nights only. Service is family style. Beginning in April, price will be $40 per person. Bring your own wine. Corkage fee of $5 per bottle. Make reservations by calling 615.538.7456 or email MangiaNashville@gmail.com. Every Saturday in March sold out, and the 26th is completely booked. So plan ahead. 🙂 Read what the Nashville Scene and Williamson a.m. had to say HERE and HERE.