Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 6:27 a.m.
Over the past few years, the west end of Las Olas Boulevard has transformed into a hot spot. Even in the past six months, new -- and very busy -- bars and restaurants have been springing up incessantly: American Social, The Royal Pig, Voodka, Grille 401.
Today, dinner service starts at the newest spot: Mancini Modern Italian.
Mancini Modern Italian opened on a side street--SE 4 Ave.--just off of the main block. With a large indoor/outdoor bar, outdoor lounge, open kitchen and open wood-burning Tuscan oven, and communal tasting tables, the spot is taking cues from the laid-back trends in dining.
The restaurant, which will be serving lunch, dinner--and eventually brunch--is going for contemporary Italian fare with some options intended for sharing: gourmet pizzas, Italian small plates, a crudo bar. Expect to see paninis, pizzas, pastas, and some new takes on traditional Mancini's dishes. According to owner Jack Mancini, "We're trying to do cutting-edge Italian by taking classic dishes and using artisanal ingredients, with sophisticated sauces, and elegant plating--not your basic chicken parm."
Mancini brought in Roger Llames to head the kitchen. Llames, who spent time working at BLT Prime in New York, got his experience in Italian cuisine by working with Todd Gray in Washington D.C. Llames intends to make most of everything in-house--from hand-pulled mozzarella to handcrafted pastas. The goal is to focus on local. "For years, the big thing in New York has been farm-to-table and sustainable," says Llames, "We want to focus on creating a lower carbon footprint. Besides, the fresher the ingredient, the less you have to do to it: it speaks for itself."
Unlike the old spot, the new Mancini's has a large bar. Specialty drinks with fresh juices, fruits, and herbs with an Italian-flair will be on the menu--think limoncello martinis and grapparitas. Mancini is looking to turn the restaurant into an evening lounge with music and outdoor couches. "We're going for moderate pricing, elevated food, and the feeling of a lounge."
After closing down M Bar last year, Mancini is ecstatic about the new concept and especially the new location. "I'm excited to be on this part of Las Olas," he says, "This is where all the energy is; I like the downtown area with all of the offices. It's more of an urban, hip, modern feel."