We went to Mangia Nashville for the first time last weekend.
It’s an Italian restaurant that came highly recommended by a friend of ours. He had the time of his life there a couple months earlier when friends invited him to a surprise birthday party there. He has been back twice since then.
Based on his experience and our experience and the reviews I’ve seen from others — adult birthday parties are a popular occurrence at Mangia Nashville.
But we weren’t celebrating any birthdays when we went with a couple of friends of ours. It’s really about the food there, not the parties.
Here’s why Mangia Nashville is Franklin’s best-kept secret and a place NOT to be missed!…
Mangia Nashville is open on Friday and Saturday nights, by reservation only.
During the night, they cover the windows and dim the lights in order to transform the place into a full-blown classy Italian dinner affair with even greater reviews.
We arrived 15 minutes early, and they clearly were not ready for us yet. They were still decorating the place and putting out the table settings. So don’t worry about rushing to get there early. They open the doors at your dinner time on the dot.
Upon entering, the place looks tiny! But that’s actually part of the ambiance.
There’s seating for up to 75 people at tables that have been arranged perfectly for parties of various sizes — from 4 to 40 (no joke). A party of 2 would likely be seated at a table with another couple.
The whole idea is to let down your hair and have a fun night in the company of lots of fun people while enjoying some of the best Italian cuisine you’ve ever tasted.
At $45 per person, it was definitely a rare night on the town for us!
What’s The Food Like?
To die for!
Chef Nick Pellegrino does all the cooking on the spot while a handful of super-friendly servers (2 per table) constantly shuffle food items to and from your table, fill up water glasses, and open wine bottles all night long.
Upon learning that you get everything on the menu (it’s not a “choice of”), you quickly realize that the price for this amazing dinner is definitely well worth it!
In fact, the general consensus at our table at the end of the night was: it may be too much food.
Here’s the menu we had (January/Winter menu):
You’ll notice there are 13 individual items that are served to you one-by-one: 4 appetizers, 2 separate leafy green salads (served right after each other), 2 full (and very filling) pasta dishes, and 3 (yes, three!) separate entrees, followed by 2 desserts.
I actually couldn’t eat the last 2 entrees or the dessert. And even though my tablemates did, they were miserably full by the night’s end. Even the next morning, we were all still in a “food coma” and it was well-past lunchtime before any of us attempted a full meal.
The food at Mangia Nashville is truly tasty and well-prepared. Without question. And we were all excited to try a number of dishes that we would never try or make on our own. That was so much fun. But it’s almost too much, in terms of the quantity of food. It’s not about the price. At our table, we all agreed that we would pay the exact same price for slightly fewer items — because the experience is truly a unique one and the food itself is absolutely amazing.
A night filled with great food and fun like this is hard to come by at any price!
Good To Know Before You Go…
Jim and I are typically not wine drinkers, so we didn’t take a bottle of wine with us. (It’s BYOB. The corkage fee is $5 per bottle.) After we arrived, we wished that we had brought some wine. Fortunately, there’s a liquor store right next door that’s open late and used to selling bottles of wine to Mangia’s guests!
Besides water, there are no other beverages served. Psst… at the end of the night they will serve a cup of coffee with your dessert, upon request.
When you first arrive, there’s a basket of freshly sliced bread on the table, along with some Italian herb oil for dipping. Depending on how long your table ends up waiting until the first appetizer is served, you may be inclined to ask for another basket of bread to munch on while you wait. (We did.) Do not do this! It may be the reason we all felt so bloated and full so early into the dinner. You’re there to enjoy all of the food, not the bread.
Related to this… while you get large-sized portions of each item, I would encourage you to choose smaller portions instead — because there are simply so many individual items to enjoy at Mangia Nashville. Fortunately, it’s easy to choose your own portion sizes since all of the items are served family-style. Each item arrives in one dish; you pass it around your table and take what you want from it.
Our dinner began at 8PM on a Friday night. The dinner ended at 11:30PM. We never felt rushed. However, the later it got into the evening (and the more courses we had previously enjoyed), the more sluggish we became and the less we anticipated the arrival of another dish. Remember, there are 13 full-size portions of food served to you rather late at night! For this reason, I will probably make reservations next time for Saturday instead — because Saturday’s dinner starts 2 hours earlier at 6PM.
Even though the folks at Mangia will box up whatever you don’t eat so you can take it home and enjoy it later, it’s just not the same warmed up the next day. Trust me. Even the dessert. I’m not sure if they ran out of time on the night we were there, or if they always do this, but they bagged up 1 of the 2 desserts (the Zeppole) for us to all take home. We refrigerated ours; our friends did not. Neither version was very enjoyable the next morning. Ditto for the leftover Osso Buco, which was delish when it was freshly served to us.
One of the highlights of the night was chatting with the chef/owner, Nick Pellegrino. Nick visits every single table and answers any questions you might have. That’s how we learned what Mangia means (“Eat!”), which spices dominated the Osso Buco (Rosemary and Thyme), and what Nick does on the other 5 nights of the week (he’s livin’ the dream with his family while pursuing his passion as a chef 2 nights a week at Mangia). Bravo, Nick! It was a pleasure to meet you. We look forward to seeing you again real soon.
An interesting side note: Nick is friends with the Cool Cafe’s owner, Tim Ness. Nick, who previously ran a catering business in New York, approached Tim with the unique idea of letting him serve an Italian feast there on weekends when the Cool Cafe is closed. Mangia Nashville recently celebrated its first year of business. It’s clearly been a win-win for Tim, for Nick, and for the residents of Nashville!
In between some of the entrees that take longer to cook, there is plenty of singing and dancing and toasting — all led by chef Nick. He mixes & mingles with the crowd throughout the entire evening. It really is a laid back and fun atmosphere, not a stuffy one as you might think with a menu as fancy as this. (To go with the authentic Italian setting, The Godfather is playing all night long on the big screen TV in the background.)
They change the menu 4 times a year (seasonally) at Mangia Nashville:
- For the month of December, they completely jazzed up the menu and turned it into even more of a feast than it normally is — for the holidays.
- They even had a New Year’s Eve menu.
- We went in mid-January and enjoyed their Winter menu.
- The menu changes again in April (Spring menu), July (Summer menu), and October (Fall menu).
We now have a standing date with our friends to return to Mangia Nashville 4 times a year (every season) to try the other menus. That’s how good the food is, and how unique the experience there is!
How To Make Reservations
You must make reservations ahead of time.
Simply email Nick Pellegrino, Mangia’s owner, at email@example.com with the number in your party and the date(s) you are interested in dining there.
He will email you right back with the availability (they’re usually booked months in advance) and the menu for that night.
A few days before your dinner night, Nick will email you a reminder. This is your last chance to cancel or change your reservation.
1110 Hillsboro Road, Suite B200
Franklin, TN 37064
(…next to La Hacienda and Zaxby’s)
Other Reviews Of Mangia Nashville
- Mangia Nashville’s Weekly Italian-Style Feast Is An Overnight Sensation
- Yelp Reviews Of Mangia Nashville
- Good Food & Good Times At Mangia Nashville
- Mangia: Welcome To The Family!
- Delicious Photos Of The Food At Mangia Nashville
- Mangia Nashville Blends Italian Food And Music
Have you been to Mangia Nashville? If so, what did you think?…
UPDATE: Our Second Time At Mangia
As promised, we went back to Mangia Nashville as soon as they changed the menu!
We went with the same friends. It’s a standing “date” we have together… to go to Mangia every time they change the menu (4 times a year).
What fun, right?!
Here are the Mangia Nashville menus from the past year — which, of course, are subject to change in future seasons:
This time, we were a little more prepared, and we felt a bit wiser than before.
A few things that we did differently this time:
#1 We didn’t eat much during the day leading up to our 8PM Friday night dinner at Mangia Nashville. (I still want to try the earlier 6PM dinner time at Mangia sometime, but we just haven’t been able to go on a Saturday… yet. Hopefully, next time!)
#2 We didn’t fill up on bread while waiting for the first course to be served. (We chuckled to ourselves whenever we noticed some tables gobbling up the bread — just as we had done our first time at Mangia. Doing so leaves very little room for all of the yummy courses!)
#3 We didn’t eat every single bite of what was served to us. (It was much more enjoyable to have the attitude that we were “sampling” all of the courses, rather than indulging in all 14 of them!)
#4 We didn’t take home our zeppole to eat cold — or re-heated — the next morning. (We actually saved enough room to enjoy every last bite of our desserts this time!)
Here’s a video of Chef Nick Pellegrino making zeppole from scratch.
The restaurant quickly outgrew the relatively small space inside the Cool Cafe. Now, just a year and a half after they opened their doors in February of 2011, Nick announced to us on this night that they had recently purchased the building next door.
We are in the midst of expanding our space to add more tables and, of course, a bigger area to dance! –Nick Pellegrino