Mangia Cucina, Vancouver.

January 2019

This charming little spot in an older house located in a former industrial area is a credible addition to bistro-level nights out in town. We were two on a rainy winter evening and liked the old building and cheerful welcome. The table was along one side and at 630 the room, accommodating maybe 30, was 30% subscribed.

Our server was a young enthusiastic guy. He took the 2012 Barolo we brought, decanted it, and presented nice glassware for tasting (the wine was just wonderful). Corkage was $25.

The menu is very straightforward Italian fare: meatballs, carpaccio, frito misto al mare, risotto ball to start; pastas including clam, carbonara, mushroom, lobster ravioli; three risottos, and a bunch of interesting pizzas. We started with the frito misto and deep-fried polenta. These were just lovely, the frito misto containing tiny fish and perfectly-fried squid etc., the deep-fried polenta presented in fish-stick-shaped bars absolutely delectable with a mellow polenta flavour, dipped in crème fraîche sauce.

Our mains were good but not quite on the same level, another stellar example of the dynamic that seems to exist everywhere. My chicken roulade soft rather than crispy but tasty and the mushroom risotto a little gooey but flavorful as well. $68 each pre-tip including the $25 corkage.

The place filled up on a winter Wednesday to capacity by 730 and somehow the young crowd generated only a moderate level of noise. I don’t know whether that was the room itself, or we just hit it lucky. Overall the service including the front-end man radiated a young, enthusiastic, just-getting-going mild obsequiousness that wasn’t at all offensive. I’ll definitely go back for another try.

Food 8.4, service 9.0, ambience 9.0, value 8.9, peace and quiet 8.0.

March 2019

Back with my wife Robin to confirm the earlier impression of quality. Confirmed, and enhanced. This time we bought our wine from the restaurant and were just fine with their 2014 classic Chianti from a producer we didn’t know, at $67. But dinner and the atmosphere and service were if anything even better, a rare find in a city just as infected as everywhere else with the high pressure and noise ideology.

The wonderful deep-fried risotto dipped in a spiced mayo (it’s not crème fraîche) was just lovely and the carpaccio completely authentic and tasty. We went in a mushroom direction, enjoying the mushroom ravioli and also a pizza. The ravioli perfectly al dente and packed with flavour, the pizza fresh, crispy, and succulent.

A very nice young lady looked after us, completely unaffected as were the rest of the staff, and although the room was reasonably well-subscribed an atmosphere of a happy respectful home again predominated. I reflected on comparison with the downtown Autostrada two weeks ago, where we also had pretty good Italian food but it was served in a three-ring circus of powerful crashing music, nasal yelling, and smart-alec staff entitlement.

We had plenty to eat and a good bottle of wine for around $180 for two including a generous tip.

Unless things change this place could become a bit of a regular for us. Highly recommended if you like your Italian dinner done home-style rather than as though you were fighting your way through a nightclub in downtown Milano. Food 9.0, service 9.1, ambience 9.2, value 8.3, peace and quiet 8.8.

 

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 40 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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