When Mancini Modern Italian first opened, I went down to check it out. With the indoor/outdoor bar on the sidewalk, I questioned whether people would be lining up 4 deep in the space next to Subway. I looked at the menu and I was surprised to see that this was now the most expensive restaurant on Las Olas.
I didn't see much reason to spend money to find out what I already knew, so I didn't make coming here a priority. I needed some motivation. Recently, there have been a slew of "reviews", some of them just plain incompetent and others quite suspicious; when a bunch of Miami based bloggers write overly glowing articles about a place we simply know isn't that good, it has to raise an eyebrow. Particularly when one of the bloggers failed to mention the M-Bar at all, and was just so overwhelmed that she felt the need to tweet 7 times. If she has any connection to the restaurant whatsoever she's committing a crime; and those kind of things really tick me off. Are these bloggers too stupid to notice that the "chefs" have no determinable background worth mentioning? Or are they on someone's payroll?jump-->
To get a complete idea of the background, Mancini owned the restaurant that is now Tundra, which was inexplicably fairly popular. The big pull was not the food, which nobody that I knew ever thought was much good; it was the patio ambiance and the live music. I reviewed the place and concluded that it was just an overpriced place with bad food. He tried a stint in Delray; he was in the building that is now Vic and Angelo's, but that was short-lived. He purchased the old Cathode Ray building down the block in 2006; when the economy crashed he was stuck in the old location until he could get financing for a move. Finally, in 2011 he opened the M Bar at 1301 Las Olas. The M Bar was a nice bar with a rip-off concept; "Global Tapas"; small plates at big prices; weird stuff like pigs ears and small blocks of "kobe" ribs that tasted like squares of bottom round. Mancini hired the Gab Group to try to sell the charade and hired 2 headline chefs who really hadn't done much other than work at places that were highly acclaimed. Five weeks after opening, half of the kitchen staff quit, including the 2 chefs; one of the line cooks reported to us that they couldn't make payroll. For the next few months, M Bar was more comedy than a destination; Mancini hired washed up nobody Kevin McCarthy, who had parlayed other people's recipes into the acclaimed "Armadillo Cafe" back when you couldn't use the internet to figure out that the recipes came from somewhere else.
So when Mancini opened this place with New York City prices I was surprised; everyone in Fort Lauderdale knows that his food isn't worth what he's charging, so what is he hoping to do? Fool a few Canadian tourists? Or is he just so arrogant that he doesn't even think he needs to establish the place as having good food before he charges more than Andrew Carmellini at Locanda Verde for a bowl of pasta?
With Mancini only open a few weeks, he's already lost his initial chef, Roger Llames. He tried to pass him off as some sort of big time hire out of BLT Prime; but there's isn't a trace of a mention of the guy anywhere in Google's archives. This is the typical Fort Lauderdale trick; find guys who'll work for scale and embellish their background to make them sound like a somebody. No matter, as Llames is already gone and Claudio Sandri is back in the kitchen; the same guy who worked at both the Original Mancini's and for a short stint at M Bar. So we know we're not getting top notch cuisine here.
Part of the deal is going to places I may not want to go to, so I walked in at 1:45 and got a table. With 2 other diners in the place, I knew I wouldn't have to worry about getting a server's attention. I ordered some iced tea with extra lemon and listened to the specials; they had more specials than customers. Most of the menu didn't interest me; I wasn't going to order mussels or a $14 salad. I thought about the hanger steak, but decided to go with the "Orchiette", which I assumed was Orecchiette; which seemed to be a variation of the classic dish with Broccoli rabe and sausage.
As with the M Bar, this is a very attractive restaurant, with sturdy dark wood furniture, 2 bars, an open kitchen and a wood burning oven. It's certainly a lot nicer than Rossopomodoro; the pizza joint that was here before.
Mancini Modern Italian Interior
The music in the place is arguably too loud, all of the songs while I was there were by Eros Ramazzotti. It's kind of strange, but better than Katy Perry or Techno. A runner dropped off 3 pieces of bread; so for a minute I was sitting there with bread, no oil or butter, and I wasn't quite sure what to do with it. My server swung by with a plate of bread and butter, and raised his brow when he saw the lonesome bread. He just shook his head and took it away; I asked for some oil also and he brought that over shortly.
Mancini Modern Italian Bread
The bread was softer than it looked and the garlicky butter spread was excellent; the oil provided was good quality; the bread was a winner.
The pasta came out more quickly than I expected.
Mancini Modern Italian Broccoli Rabe Pesto and Sausage
This was a little different than I expected. The first sign of trouble was that the "little ears" were all stuck together; if nothing else an indication of a lazy chef. The dish was very flavorful with lots of cheese and garlic. It wasn't bad, but the variation was a flop, as the brocolli rabe was overcooked and the bitterness was overpowered by the pesto. The sausage also wasn't browned; it seemed like it was boiled or something. The point of the dish is to pair the bitter greens with the rich fat from the sausage; here the bitterness was cooked out and there was no remnant of the sausage fat.
The dish is so easy to make, and it's great, so why does every "chef" in town have to change it? At YOLO, Boulukos ruined it with Feta cheese and peppers, while Big City Tavern makes it with "poached" garlic and white wine. Just toss the pasta and the rabe in the fat and some of the water for pete's sake.
Service was very good, although a broken glass delayed me from getting my bill for a short time. $23 for pasta and iced tea. What a deal.
So what we have here is exactly what I thought; a nice restaurant with mediocre food at New York City prices. With no history of good food; it's difficult for me to consider spending what Mancini is charging to sample his "ideas". I'd rather just have a pizza.
Mancini Back on Las Olas (08/20/2012)
Mancini's Closes , (05/14/2011)
Mancini's Restaurant 1017 E Las Olas Blvd Fort Lauderdale FL, 33301 (05/13/2011)