5555 S. Brainard Countryside, IL, 60525
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A restaurant so nice they named it twice

By: Ann Ambrosia (a suburban free-lance writer)

Chicago Sun Times – Dining

In a word, Mangia Mangia is delicious, delicious! Serving rich homemade Italian food in portions so large it’s no wonder they repeat the name, this is not the sort of place you’d expect to find in a strip mall. Yet there it is, near a Dominick’s in west suburban Countryside. You may have to search, but it’s a goal worth seeking.

Outside, a compelling aroma of fresh bread red sauce and spices demand attention. Follow that smell inside, place your order at the counter, then retire to a cozy booth or snug table to await you meal, which will be brought swiftly.

Beginning with the bread, we found delicious homemade taste and wonderful layers of flavor throughout the meal. Bread-now there’s a necessity in an Italian meal and Mangia Mangia’s version has one of the best crusts in the area, crispy and solid with a rich brown flavor. The interior was soft but not sticky, with a rich taste that was truly memorable. This bread only a great accompaniment, it was a treat.

The antipasto tray included an assortment of salami, mortadella, cappicola, provolone, artichoke hearts, pepperoncini and a number of other vegetables. All the ingredients were fresh and flavorful.

Another great starter was the minestrone soup, a homemade version of the Italian classic. A rich tomato base was filled with carrots, zucchini and celery as well as small pasta shells. Cooked to perfection, the vegetables were tender but still slightly firm; even the shells managed to avoid going all to mush. The seasoning was well done too, without an overpowering dose of pepper, another common problem with this dish.

On, then, to the entrees, where again we found no shortage of quality or flavor. The homemade lasagna was simply delicious, and the portion was gargantuan: great for lunch for about a week. Chewier than some varieties, it had a wonderful texture that spoke of truly fresh pasta and plenty of cheese. The full-flavored red sauce had a taste as bright as a jingle bell. And, it passed the spoon test, it’s an A-one sauce.

We also loved that red sauce on a less glamorous dish, the mostaccioli. Mangia Mangia definitely knows how to serve pasta. All of the pastas we tried had a nice bready texture that was chewy but still had great body. And with a flavor that stood up to that good red sauce, the mostaccioli made for most enjoyable eating.

Less dazzle, but still quite good, was the shrimp primavera over angel hair pasta. The sauce combined garlic and wine in tasty fashion, and the vegetables were tender and fresh. The angel hair, which often gets overcooked, here was delicious and still perfectly aldente.

Advertised as a “Taylor Street Recipie,” the sausage and peppers were close to the mark. Yellow and green peppers with a full but not sharp garlicky flavor complemented some subtly spicy sausage, which could take you back to the old neighborhood even if you’ve never been there before.

Being the sort who can order a whole meal around the potatoes, we just couldn’t pass up the kind that was offered here, even if it meant we’d have to roll home. Here again, Mangia Mangia’s propensity for spices added the perfect touch to roasted potatoes. A clear mixture of Italian Herbs and seasonings made the potatoes dance on our tastebuds. Roasted till nice and grainy inside, with a pleasant thin crust outside, we’d eat them straight any day.

After all that good food, we still managed to squeeze in dessert. They were all homemade, and I know when I’ve had a cannoli with a lighter filling, a great asset after such a large meal. The tubular shell was crispy and tasted totally greaseless. The tiramisu was also great, with a definite presence of rum.

Mangia Mangia Italian Restaurant 5555 S. Brainard, Countryside, IL 60525 Phone: (708) 352-3631 Fax: (708) 352-5967
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