Mandolas Italian Kitchen has opened in Carrollwood, at 14703 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa.
It’s the second location and follows the successful opening of Florida’s first-ever location in Riverview in 2020.
The Carrollwood location has close to 8,000 square feet, with a seating capacity of 185 guests. Customers order from a menu board and select any open table in the dining room or on the outside patio. Servers bring the food and beverages. It’s considered a fast-casual restaurant, but founder Damian Mandola’s culinary program is anything but fast, or casual. The recipes have been handed down over generations of his family, many from his grandmother, Grace. Dishes Italian Grandmothers have been making for their families for centuries fill the menu. Classic and comforting, these are the dishes that families have enjoyed at every celebration in life.
The décor follows through on the theme of family and the enjoyment of life. Framed photos, taken from Mandola’s family albums, line the wall. And while the photos are of his family, the subjects in the photos could just as easily be anyone’s family. The entire concept is based on family, and at a time when the world is Covid-weary and looking for some comfort, that concept is working beyond expectations.
Mandola’s partner, Paul Avery, is among Tampa’s restaurant royalty. He is the president of World of Beer and former CEO of Outback Steakhouse Inc., now known as Bloomin’ Brands. He met Mandola when they worked together on another OSI restaurant chain, Carrabba’s Italian Grill.
With Carrabba’s in the rearview mirror, Mandola and Avery are focused on growing the Mandola’s brand and plan to capitalize on the success of their Riverview location. “The Riverview store has exceeded all expectations. From sales to social media reviews to repeat clientele, we couldn’t be happier,” Avery says.
Plans include opening six more locations throughout Florida in the next year. Two more are planned for Tampa Bay, Orlando gets two and two will be in Jacksonville. But for now, the focus is on the new restaurant in Carrollwood.
Another new feature is a mobile pizza oven. It’s a full-scale, wood-burning, brick pizza oven that will be taken to parties and events.
“It’s perfect for birthday parties, corporate lunches and even weddings,” Mandola said, “but we are going to start it off at charity events.”
Ultimately, it will be a centerpiece of a full-scale catering division.
Take away is a significant part of the Mandola’s business model and its locations are designed to maximize revenue from customers who pick up their food to go. Large bars are located near the entrances. That’s designed so that customers have a cozy spot if they need to wait. Nearby is a marketplace, where those same customers can pick up a bottle of wine to enjoy with dinner when they get home. And a large bakery, whose cases are filled with Italian cakes, cookies and pastry, can be seen from every corner of the place. That way, every guest is tempted to pick up a filled-to-order cannoli, Neopolitan cookie or pint of gelato for the road.
Mandola’s created 55 jobs in Carrollwood, but unlike other businesses that struggle to fill open positions, Avery reports no problems finding experienced applicants and retaining employees.
“People want to work here because of the environment we create. It’s very supportive and a place where committed employees have an opportunity to learn and grow.” Avery pauses and points a finger toward Mandola. “And this man is at the center of it all. People love working with him.”
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