Restaurant Profile: Mambo Italiano

By David McCreary

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.

Restaurant Profile: Mambo Italiano

“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.

Buon appetito!

Mambo Italiano
770 W. Williams St., Apex
(Haddon Hall Commons)
(919) 362-9900


Photography By Jonathan Fredin


Submitted by cameronores (not verified) on Tue, 03/19/2013 - 7:44am.

Even I dint liked the food.Even with reservations there was a long wait and the restaurant. Regards, Joey Gilbert

Submitted by TF (not verified) on Sun, 11/20/2011 - 12:29am.

Don't waste your time or money - I decided to celebrate my wife's 50th birthday at Mambo Italiano, with my daughter and her boyfriend. As we waited to be seated, we noticed the Latin music and wondered if we were at the wrong place. After all, we wanted Italian food. I guess that's why they call it "Mambo" Italiano. Anyway, for starters, the server was very pushy, and curt. In fact, usually it is me to complain about service, but this time it was all three of my family members who were complaining. In fact, my 24 year old daughter wanted to speak to the manager, which I've never seem her do. The 1/2 carafe of house red wine was worse than box wine. It was so bad that I couldn't even drink it and had to send it back. IT WAS TERRIBLE! The server seemed annoyed by the fact that we wanted to know a few descriptions of the "Mambo" dishes and said there are no substitutions on weekend nights. Anyway, the food arrived and it was fair, at best. I ordered the Lasagna which was bland. The meat sauce tasted like generic Ragu with hamburger...NO FLAVOR! When I asked for fresh grated parmesan, I was given a pizza shaker with regular run of the mill, Kraft style parmesan. Also, they went way overboard with the ricotta cheese, that I wound up scooping it out in order to eat the noodles and meat sauce. My daughter's side of steamed veggies contained a mystery veggie. No one could figure out what it was! Beyond that, it was about 60% cauliflower. Get this; they make absolutely NO accommodations for birthdays. In fact, I'm sure the server could tell we were disappointed, so she actually suggested that we try the yogurt place next door! The night really wound up a disaster when I forgot to redeem my $25 gift certificate. We had just gotten to the end of the parking lot when my wife mentioned it. I rushed back to get the bill corrected (within 5 min of leaving), and the owner Ron said "I'm not going to do it". I was shocked! We just dropped $130 for poor service and bland Italian food, and he wouldn't accept the very thing that enticed me to go there. What a disappointment! I too am a transplant from NY/NJ area. I have run a number of successful restaurants in NYC, too. You can get away with that kind of crap in the city, but you won't last too long pissing off people down here in the South. We want good honest service, and good food. Period. Ronnie Mancuso, do yourself a favor and go back up north IF you intend to keep running your restaurant like this.

Submitted by Janet (not verified) on Mon, 08/15/2011 - 10:00am.

We were very disappointed with this restaurant. The service was poor and our dinners came out at different times. My son sat there with nothing to eat while we all had our dinners and was very upset. Especially because it was his birthday! The appetizer was over priced for the portion. The dessert was also way over priced for the portion. The owner comes out and sings? Don't get that one at all. We will not be going back to that place again.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/11/2010 - 11:16am.

We got seated right away, and from there it went downhill. It took about 5 minutes to get drinks ordered, then it took about 10 minutes to get them. We had ordered two beers and a carafe of wine. We were seated, NEXT TO THE BAR! Should not have taken that long. The waitress then took forever to get orders; in the meantime, I finished my drink, and was waiting for her to ask if I would like another one. I could have asked, but as a customer I shouldn’t have to, do your job and earn the tip. The food came after 50 minutes after we ordered. I broke down and asked for one about 10 minutes before the food arrived, still no drink. The food tasted good. Some food was lukewarm, my wife's was scolding hot, and mine was average. I finish my entree, STILL no drink; I have to ask AGAIN for a drink. She grabs a beer from the bar. It was sitting up there for 10 minutes getting warm. The place is overly hot, we are all sweating through our clothes. The service was for from what we had to tip. We used a Restaurant-dot-com coupon, that puts a 18% tip on the bill. The waitress didn't know that, so she wasn’t sloughing off, she was really that bad. Then we write an email to the owner nicely stating that we did not have the greatest time, and his email back, does not offer any condolences just a "don't tell your friends and start malicious gossip". So this is not malicious gossip, it is the God's honest truth. Go to any other restaurant in Apex, you will have a MUCH better experience.

Submitted by Jane (not verified) on Tue, 03/02/2010 - 10:37am.

Very disappointed with the service and food. Even with reservations there was a long wait and the restaurant was over booked. We were cramped and constantly being bumped into by the wait staff. There was a long wait for our food which wasn't very good compared to other restaurants in the area.

Submitted by Thomas (not verified) on Wed, 02/17/2010 - 9:25pm.

I was very disappointed with this restaurant. The food was poor and there are many other restaurants in the area that are much better. Owners need an attitude adjustment. Don't waste your time!

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