Over sixty years ago, a young man named Alfonso Mandara left his native town of Positano, on the Amalfi Coast in Italy to seek the American Dream. When he arrived in New York, he soon found employment in a mozzarella factory in Brooklyn. After years of hard work and savings, in 1960, he opened his first pizzeria. Now almost 60 years later, the Mandara family is still hard at work keeping Alfonso’s legacy alive with the third generation of the family providing delicious dishes, crafted using the finest ingredients and recipes that have remained closely-guarded family secrets. Even though the restaurant only opened in the spring of this year, its outstanding menu has meant that the restaurant has not remained a secret to those who love fine cuisine. This is the family’s eleventh restaurant in the New York – New Jersey area and for those in and around West Caldwell, New Jersey, it is a welcomed addition to the community.
Michael and Mena Mandara created the restaurant, while Pasquale Marino, himself a native of Positano, is the general manager of the establishment. Louis Aiello is the operational partner and works magic in the kitchen. Together, they bring a wealth of knowledge and experience that is evident as soon as you walk through the door. After being greeted, you cannot help but notice the attractive, well-stocked, full length bar. Upon entering the comfortable and tastefully decorated dining room, the extensive wine rack catches your attention. It features many exceptional vintages, along with a curated selection of grappa and small-batch whiskeys. The bar is overseen by award-winning mixologist Luigi Tarantino. The wait staff is very attentive, friendly and knowledgeable about the menu and their daily specials.
Upon opening the menu, you will find that the creative pizza selections are incredible – numbering twenty specialty pizzas! The creativity is impressive and the melding of flavors fantastic. Three examples of entirely different, but equally delicious pizzas are the Giardino – stuffed with broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, red roasted peppers and mozzarella; the Romano – with oven roasted potatoes, pepperoni, sweet fennel sausage, caramelized onions and mozzarella and the Positano, a thin crust, topped with red sauce, mozzarella, fresh mushrooms and onions and finished with slices of marinated tomatoes and basil. The list of pizzas and ingredients absolutely sparkles with ingenuity.
Dishes are prepared to order and the sauces are made fresh each morning. They come from old family recipes, as well as ones that Mena Mandara has added her signature flair to. The menu has more highlights than space allows, but the classic Arancini is a delight. The signature Pasta Mandara (rigatoni with diced tomatoes, baby spinach, fresh mozzarella, sausage and grilled chicken) will satisfy the heartiest of appetites, while Posa Posa (veal scaloppini and shiitake mushrooms sautéed in a sherry wine cream sauce) has a subtlety and richness that is indescribable. Another favorite is Balsamico, a chicken breast topped with fontina cheese, cherry tomatoes and basil in a rich balsamic reduction. Daily specials are often inspired by the cuisine of the Amalfi Coast and change, based upon the season and the availability of the finest cuts of meat and the freshest seafood.
The atmosphere is also ideal for special events, from birthdays and anniversaries to showers and corporate events, with an ambiance that will surely please each guest and attendee. Mandara’s extensive catering menu is also perfect for any celebrations that you are having at home.
Mandara Ristorante and Pizzeria is located in the Broadway Square Shopping Center at 40 Clinton Road in West Caldwell, New Jersey. There is plenty of free parking. They are open Monday through Thursday from 11:00am – 10:00pm. On Friday and Saturday the hours are 11:00am – 11:00pm and Sunday from noon to 10:00pm. To make reservations, call 973-226-3250. To see their extensive menu, please visit their website at www.mandararistorante.com.