I know my Italian food.
I know what's good and what's not. I know when a meal is fairly priced. I also know anywhere south of Delaware, Italian food is only sub-par and overpriced. I was fully aware that when I moved to Austin, I might not find any good Italian restaurants. I went to Mandola's based on the recommendation of a friend who has impeccable taste.
After my first meal there, I thought, "Good. Now I can live happily in Austin." I had found a good Italian place with fair prices. It was my holy grail. I have yet to visit another Italian restaurant in this city. When I want my Italian fix, I go to Mandola's.
- The gnochi. My grandmother makes gnochi with a combination of potatoes and ricotta cheese, making her dumplings softer and not as chewy as pure potato gnochi. Mandola's is the only place that has gnochi remotely close to my grandmother's.
- The fresh bread. Mandola's also has a small Italian market in the front of the restaurant, and they make fresh bread. It's beautiful. Beautiful.
- The gelato. My friend told me they imported the gelato machine from Italy, so I thought it could be good. It could also be terrible, like most gelato in the U.S. One time, a chef from the kitchen came out to help at the gelato counter due to a long line. I asked him to try the straciatella, and told him I had not had gelato that good outside of Italy. He told me that was because at Mandola's they make their bases fresh daily, and most gelaterias in the U.S. use pre-made bases. Hands down, Mandola's has the best gelato I've ever tried in the U.S.
- The pizza. Mandola's sticks with the Italian tradition of serving a whole personal pizza, cooked in a stone oven. My favorite is the arugla and prosciutto pizza. First of all, it's huge and it's like a salad on the pizza. The bitter arugala and salty prosciutto balance each other and make a lovely combination on Mandola's fresh pizza crust.
Location: The Triangle, 4700 W. Guadalupe, Suite 12
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Accepts: All major credit cards
Rating: 4 1/2 stars
Bottom line: Trust me. This is the best Austin has to offer.