082216mangia6‘Boli knots,’ or bite-sized strombolis, served with a side of marinara sauce at Mangia. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)


WFL what's for lunch?Open just two weeks in the Shrewsbury shopping mall that’s home to Trader Joe’s, Mangia Brick Oven Pizza at first appears to be a tiny pizza joint squeezed into a small store front. In this case, looks are deceiving.

After scanning cases filled with several varieties of pizza, our eyes settle on a large, open kitchen with a massive brick oven before taking in the rustic barn wood-style tables and crafty decor. Not immediately apparent is a dining room with a lovely upscale vibe tucked to the right of the kitchen.

082216mangia4Mangia features an open kitchen and massive brick oven. Below, the front dining room. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

082216mangia5Three years ago, Fabiana Caggiano was sitting with here sisters, Valentina and Elisa, brainstorming about a new restaurant venture.

“We came up with the name and logo right there at my parents round table,” Fabiana says.

Coming from a “restaurant family,” the sisters plan was put into action with their first Mangia Brick Oven Pizza Restaurant in Toms River, and then a second location in Jackson.

Fabiana, along with her childhood sweetheart and now-husband, Sean, run the Shrewsbury location with managing partners Sal Cuccinotti and Jay MacCloud.

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Perusing the extensive menu and pizza selection while standing at the counter, PieHole notices not one but two huge bowls of garlic knots. “What are those?” a customer asks, seeming to channel our thoughts. They’re boli knots ($3.95 for six), we’re told.

A boli knot is pizza dough layered with ham, capicola, and mozzarella, rolled into a bite-sized knot and baked to a crunch. The tasty morsels are then plunged into a minced garlic and oil bath. Dragging one through the side dish of marinara, a customer pops it into his mouth, chews for a minute and says awesome — out loud. We definitely agree.

082216mangia10Available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., many of the entrees come in reduced price, lunch-sized portions, and are served with bread and a side salad. Opting for the pasta primavera ($9.95), we weren’t disappointed.

A good-sized bowlful of farfalle pasta was cooked al dente and lightly dressed with olive oil and thin slices of roasted garlic, fresh broccoli, carrots and sun dried tomatoes. The dish was full of flavor and didn’t leave us feeling stuffed.

Imaginative salad combinations include an Insalata Fantasia, which is an arugula base topped with fried goat cheese medallions, toasted pignoli nuts and craisins served with a white balsamic vinaigrette. Another tempting salad is the Oriental Crisp, a mixture of romaine lettuce, crispy fried chicken, almonds, cabbage slaw, Mandarin oranges and crispy noodles served in a creamy sesame dressing.

In the two weeks Mangia’s been open, takeout and lunchtime service has been brisk, we’re told. The spacious, banquette-rimmed rear dining room, with its pale blue walls, trendy Edison light bulbs and barn wood touches make it a perfect venue for family dinners and dates. Bring a bottle of wine and you’re set.

Mangia is open from 1o:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Friday and Saturday it’s open until 10 p.m.