At long last an authentic, independently owned, family-style Italian restaurant has arrived in the Western Wake vicinity, and it’s the real deal in every sense. Mambo Italiano has only been open a few short months, but patrons have quickly taken to the Apex establishment that stands behind its “We Feed You Like Family” motto.
“Bella (my wife) and I searched for more than a year for the perfect location to open a restaurant, and we fell in love with the Cary/Apex area,” co-proprietor Ron Mancuso said. “Our place is reminiscent of what you would find in Little Italy.”
That translates into a warm, inviting dining room with red-checked tablecloths, a mixture of two- and four-top tables along with high-backed booths, rust-colored walls and huge-portioned meals large enough to share with two or more people.
“All the recipes are passed down from my wife’s grandmother,” revealed Mancuso, a native of Long Island, N.Y. “There’s just no substitute for made-from-scratch home-style food, and that’s what we provide here.”
All entrées are served with house salad and fresh-baked bread, so there’s little chance anyone will leave unsatisfied.
Moreover, the good news for not-so-hungry patrons or those who want to sample a variety of dishes: Half orders are available on request. “Either way, you get a really good value for your money,” Mancuso said. “We like to think we’re providing gourmet food for middle-of-the-road prices, and that’s important these days.”
Speaking of the food, the restaurant’s menu presents an abundant assortment of traditional Italian fare, including pasta, chicken, veal, beef, pork, seafood, pizza and vegetarian. “All dishes are prepared to order, so it takes a bit of time, but it’s worth the wait,” Mancuso said. “We’re also sticklers for consistency and excellence.”
Among the appetizers, winning options range from antipasti and fried calamari to baked clams and eggplant rollatini. Standout main-course offerings include the succulent red wine-infused Rigatoni Bolognese; a hearty Tortellini ala Mambo; and Chicken Saltimbocca, which features tender chicken breasts with sliced prosciutto, mushrooms, sautéed spinach, mozzarella and a light wine gravy. “The gravy is a nice twist on a marsala sauce,” Mancuso said.
In the mood for pizza? Choose between Napoli (round) and Grandma’s (square) in 12- or 16-inch varieties. Toppings include pepperoni, sausage, meatball, peppers, onions, mushrooms, black olives and anchovies. “White pizza is also a popular choice,” said Mancuso, who shared that to-go ordering is an increasingly popular approach with some regular customers.
Tantalizing made-in-house dessert options abound. Whether you choose the scrumptious tiramisu, the sinfully sweet cannoli or the decadent Black Forest chocolate cake, you can’t go wrong.
“Bella is a world-class pastry chef,” Mancuso said beamingly. “The almond flowers dessert is her specialty, which is made with phyllo dough and a cheesecake-style filling.”
Mancuso also said Mambo Italiano refuses to use fruit-flavored syrup on any of its desserts, opting to serve real fruit instead. “It’s the little things that make all the difference,” he said. “We will not compromise or take shortcuts when it comes to food quality.”
The restaurant’s streamlined wine list contains the requisite bottles of chardonnay, merlot, Chianti and several others modestly priced between $28-$32 per bottle. Glasses of full-bodied red and white house wines offer a tribute to the art of traditional family wine-making. On-tap beer selections include Stella Artois, Yuengling, Sam Adams and Blue Moon.
A small corner bar area accented with dark wood tones and a striking wrought iron screen seats eight to 10 people.
Additionally, a spacious outdoor patio provides a nice alternative venue for dining on warmer days.
Service at Mambo Italiano is attentive and friendly, and the well-trained wait staff seems more than capable of handling a crowd. “We not only feed you like family, but we treat you like family as well,” Mancuso said. “We understand that great service is essential to the overall dining experience, so we definitely go the extra mile.”
Mambo Italiano is open for lunch Monday through Saturday and offers dinner service nightly. Printable coupons for special offers are accessible on the restaurant’s Web site. Catering service is available as well as facilities for private events. Reservations are accepted.
770 W. Williams St., Apex
(Haddon Hall Commons)
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