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Mangiamo - Toms River

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Surprisingly good ... In a sea of mostly undifferentiated casual Italian restaurants in our area, I think “Mangiamo! Artful Cuisine” did a very respectable above average -- and better-than-your-typical-strip-mall-Italian-joint -- job on two recent Friday night visits.

Mangiamo opened in April 2008, and is owned and run by the same guy who had the former Rockafellas on Fischer Blvd in Toms River. Since I never ate at Rockafellas, I can’t compare the food, but I think he’s doing a fine job at Mangiamo as he comes up on his first anniversary. On the first night I was there, the place was nearly packed at 7:30 PM. It felt like a lot of the crowd were regulars. On the second night, at about the same time, the restaurant was less than half full.

Unfortunately, I didn’t note all the prices. But as an overall indication of the quality, each item we had rated an “I’d get that again” from the table.

Appetizer courses
- Shrimp and lobster bisque ($6.95). Rich and lobstery with chunks of seafood.
- Clam and corn chowder ($4.95). A special of the day. I probably should have accepted the freshly ground pepper that was offered, but still very enjoyable.
- Eggplant rollatine. A special of the day. Good, but not a stand out.
- Scallops wrapped in bacon. A special of the day. Large, plump, juicy, great flavor.
- Scungilli in a spicy marinara ($11.95). This was really good, and probably would do very nicely over a serving of pasta for a main course.

Main courses
- Blackened snapper with a mango salsa, steamed vegetables ($24.95). Served with a side pasta. A special of the day. The fish was done nicely, and the salsa had a good mix of tropical flavors. The vegetables were a little over-cooked.
- Mahi mahi in a horseradish sauce, with lump crab meat, garlic mashed potatoes, and steamed vegetables. A special of the day. Delicious fish and crab. The horseradish sauce was fairly subtle, so didn’t fight with the fish and crab at all.
- Filet mignon, topped with shrimp scampi. A special of the day. Ordered Pittsburgh style (black and blue) and served just right.
- Shrimp and scallops, over spaghetti with broccoli rabe. A special of the day. Large dish. Fine shrimp and plump, juicy scallops. Great garlic throughout, and the broccoli rabe providing just a little bitter counter-flavor.

We were seated quickly both times, and service was mostly ok. My only real complaint was a very long wait for one diet soda during the first visit. One of us ordered the drink when first seated, and the rest of us having the wine we had brought along. When halfway through eating the appetizers and still no soda had been served, I waved down the front manager and she quickly brought one to the table. The waiter finally showed up about 2 minutes later with the originally requested drink.

Main courses on the menu are: 12 pasta dishes, for $17 or $18; 6 meat dishes, from $18 to $25; and 7 seafood dishes, from $20 to $24. Plus, a "pick your preparation" for chicken ($19) and veal ($22) offering 4 styles.

Mangiamo is on westbound Rt 37 between Coolidge and Garfield.

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Mangiamo Artful Cuisine
2206 Route 37 E, Toms River, NJ 08753

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