Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Mannino's Italian Bistro
I am slowly discovering that spontaneity can be a positive thing when dining out. Tuesday is date night and we had a plan. We planned to go to one place for dinner but my guy wanted to stop for a drink before dinner. Honestly, I don’t really understand that concept. I mean, why not have drinks at the same place that you’re having dinner? He likes the variety. I told him that I was game. That was how we came upon Mannino’s Italian Bistro on Princess Anne Road in Virginia Beach.
Mannino’s is a small, out of the way bistro which is very unassuming and neither of us had heard of it before tonight. My guy was driving by one night and saw several cars in the parking lot and filed that image in his mental rolodex and pulled it out for such an occasion as this.
I walked into the Italian bistro and was not surprised by the décor or the setup. It looked like an Italian bistro. It was cozy and the simple wood furnishings were polished to a bright shine. It was clean and comfortable. We opted to sit at the bar because we planned to only have drinks. Our server, Chuck, introduced himself and showed us a wine list. He suggested a Cabernet Franc out of Napa, which is usually used in blends and the only other time I tried a straight Cab Franc I hated it. He allowed me to taste it and I was pleasantly surprised. While he poured two glasses he began to give us some of the history behind Mannino’s. The restaurant has only been open for a year and they are about to open a second location on Pleasure House Road. Everything is made fresh and everything is made to order. They make their own mozzarella and they grow their own herbs. At this point, we had all but decided we’d be staying for dinner. After Chuck gave us a quick rundown of the specials it was a done deal. I have a weakness for Italian food.
As we sat at the bar and sipped our wine, I noticed that the front door kept opening and there was a steady stream of patrons. More than once the host greeted people by name. For some reason, that made an impression on me. I appreciated the friendly atmosphere.
We both chose soup as our first course. I had the smoked halibut soup which was full of smoky fish and hearty potatoes in a creamy white broth. My guy had the crab soup and instead of being made with sherry it was prepared with marsala. Of course, living in Virginia Beach, I have had my fair share of she-crab soup and this was by far one of the best I’ve tasted.
Our main courses were something to behold:
I ordered the salmon over puttanesca sauce. Puttanesca is a combination of regular olives, Kalamata olives, capers, tomatoes and anchovies in olive oil. The combination of the salmon and the sauce made for a surprisingly light meal. The fish was fresh and cooked perfectly.
My guy ordered this beautiful dish:
It’s called Vitello Saltimbocca which is a pan seared veal cutlet topped with prosciutto ham, baby spinach and fresh mozzarella. The sherry wine sauce was incredible. It had a mildly sweet flavor that reminded me of maple syrup … only not that heavy. Trust me, it was wonderful.
I don’t generally order dessert but my guy always does. So we compromised and decided to share a ridiculously delicious chocolate chip cannoli for dessert. House made tiramisu and New York style cheesecake were also featured on the menu.
Mannino’s is open for dinner Monday through Saturday and closed on Sunday. The most expensive entrée on the menu was $18 and on Monday nights they feature a wine special. All bottles are on sale for $10. This gives patrons an opportunity to try a variety of new wines or stock up on old favorites because any wine that is not finished in the restaurant can be corked and taken with you.
Although we had plans to go somewhere else, I’m glad we were led to Mannino’s. The food was wonderful. Our server made excellent food and wine recommendations. The service was outstanding and the price was more than reasonable. This is a place that we definitely plan to revisit.