WEST CALDWELL, NJ — Michael and Mena Mandara are bringing their New York-style pizza, slow-cooked sauces, old family recipes, classic Italian favorites, specialty cocktails and wines to their newest family-friendly restaurant, Mandara Ristorante, Bar & Pizzeria, now located at 40 Clinton Road in West Caldwell.
Mena said she and her husband came upon the West Caldwell area through a good friend and felt it would be the perfect location for their newest restaurant.
A few weeks after the restaurant's official opening, diners Alan Schindler and Christy Berg said they enjoy eating at Mandara Ristorante because the "service is lovely" and that everything they have tasted is delicious, including options off the wine list. The Caldwell residents also said they were thrilled to have a new place nearby with a nice atmosphere where they can enjoy a peaceful dinner along with a glass of wine or a cocktail.
Mena, who describes herself as being "old school," said she prides herself on "only using the freshest quality ingredients every day."
"All our dishes are made to order; nothing is premade," she said. "If you order chicken cutlet, we fry it right then and put it together fresh. Gluten-free and kid-friendly options are also available."
She added that the sauces are made fresh each morning as well from an old family recipe that she has put her own signature spin on through the years.
Unique to the West Caldwell location is the addition of a full-service bar overseen by award-winning mixologist Luigi Tarantino (formerly of NYC's Employees Only). The extensive wine list features many gems, along with a curated selection of grappa and small-batch whiskeys.
Tarantino, known for handcrafted cocktails, brings an Italian-inspired cocktail menu to Mandara's with classics like Aperol Spritz and fresh-flavor concepts like "A Thousand Miles Away," made with Uruapan rum, lime, banana, Orgeat and Fernet Menta.
Some of the other menu highlights include Brick Oven Pizza with all the toppings, Classic Neapolitan Arancini (prosciutto, peas and fresh mozzarella), Pasta Mandara (rigatoni w/diced tomatoes, baby spinach, fresh mozzarella, Italian sausage, grilled chicken), Posa Posa (veal scaloppine and shiitake mushrooms sautéed in sherry wine, cream sauce) and Balsamico (chicken breast topped with fontina cheese, cherry tomatoes and basil in a rich balsamic reduction).
Daily specials will consist of fresh fish and select meats along with dishes inspired by the cuisine of the Amalfi Coast, home of General Manager Pasquale Marino and the origin of the Mandara family. Think simple pasta and seafood dishes prepared with few ingredients, like lemons, anchovies and acqua pazza (known to the family as "crazy water").
Mena said she and her family strive to make their guests feel right at home and that she considers her staff part of the family as well.
"We see our restaurants as extensions of our home kitchen," said Deeana Mandara, daughter of the owners and a graduate of the French Culinary Institute who also represents the third generation of the business. "Our walls are covered with cherished photographs and we preserve the recipes of our grandparents, who instilled in us a love for food and family."
The Mandaras have been in the food business for more than 60 years, since Michael's parents, Alfonso and Regina, immigrated to NYC from the iconic southern Italian seaside village of Positano. After working in a Brooklyn mozzarella factory, Alfonso opened his first pizzeria in 1960, and his sons followed them into the business—eventually opening Posa Posa in Nanuet, NY, in 1984 as well as Pizzeria Mandara & Ristorante in Wyckoff.
Mandara Ristorante & Pizzeria in West Caldwell, the Bergen County family's 11th restaurant, underwent a total renovation and now features a full bar, pizzeria and two distinct dining areas—one with a floor-to-ceiling wine closet as its focal point.
It is now open seven days a week for lunch and dinner services with off-premise catering and private dining options for events also availble. Deliveries can also be made to West Caldwell, North Caldwell, Caldwell, Fairfield, Roseland, Essex Fells, Verona and Montville.