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Mangia is not at all what writer expected

by jmaloni
Sat, Aug 13th 2011 12:00 am

by Joshua Maloni

One of the reasons I avoided Mangia Café & Bakery since its move to Center Street was for fear its breakfast was a little "too healthy" for my liking (i.e. no bacon or sausage). Another reason is the fact it's located on the ground floor of architect David Giusiana's house and, well, that's just weird.

Suffice to say, I was wrong on both counts.

The reason you must drop everything you're doing and go there - right now - is the Mangia meal I had last Saturday. It could easily be featured on the Food Network's "The Best Thing I Ever Ate." It was arguably the best breakfast I've ever tasted, and the reason I've been kicking myself all week for delaying this treat for so long.

I knew Mangia offered classic desserts - stellar cakes, pies and cookies - at its previous location. I was curious - nay, excited - to see what breakfast dishes owner Bec Poletti would offer when she moved into a larger space last year. But, when Mangia first relocated to 621 Center St., I looked over the menu and didn't see my two favorite breakfast meats.

Bacon and sausage may have been on there, but they certainly weren't featured as star players. Instead, I saw a lot of words like "fruit," "vegetable" and something the young kids like to call "hummus." Plus, there were sections such as "healthy grains" and "vegetarian" in place of "processed" and "covered with cheese."

I hadn't thought much of the eatery since then. But when Mangia waitress Margie Pryce stopped me recently at Artpark and asked when I was going to write about her employer, I decided to give the place a try.

On my first trip, I quickly overcame my Giusiana-itis (which, incidentally, had nothing to do with Dave, who is a solid dude). Sure, Mangia is in someone's house, but then, what is a bed and breakfast? The restaurant looks and feels like a high-class B&B, and offers all of the charm you'd expect at such a location.

My newfound relaxed attitude quickly turned to excitement when I saw something unexpected on the menu: waffles. I ordered the golden brown, Belgium griddlecake ($6.95), which, these days, is harder to find than truffles. As it turns out, waffles are plentiful at Mangia, covered with delicious strawberries (yes, I covered mine in syrup), and served until close. It was a nice morning treat.

My stylish accomplice ordered an omelet, which she enjoyed, and highly recommended the homemade quiche (several flavors; $6.95 per slice).

It was afterward that I noticed Mangia does, in fact, have bacon and ham (close enough), as well as an array of cheeses. So, I decided to try my hand at something I might make on my own: a Las Vegas-style, all-in western omelet.

To Mangia's ham, pepper and onion-mixed eggs ($6.75), I added bacon ($.85) and mozzarella cheese ($.85). The dish came with home fries and toast.

The eggs were fluffy and savory, and included large chunks of ham, crispy bacon, juicy peppers and onions, and lots of oozing, melted cheese. I didn't need a magnifying glass for my four Italian toast triangles, which yielded two full-size omelet sandwiches. And the rustic potatoes were simply magical; each slice was crisp and absolutely seasoned perfectly.

I didn't - I couldn't - add anything to this dish. Not salt. Not pepper. Nothing. It was as if Gordon Ramsay himself had reached out of the tele and made breakfast for me.

Not every master chef can handle dessert, nor is it a given the chocolatier can, say, sear a piece of meat or make a risotto. The skills required to make a main course are different than those needed to bake a soufflé or ice a cake. Poletti is that rare culinary master who can and does succeed at both.

Now, I was right about Mangia's health-conscious menu. The ingredients are fresh, low-calorie and doctor-approved. If you're looking for fast food, this isn't it.

However, if you're in the mood for something new - something amazing and homemade - then Mangia is the place for you.

Mangia Café & Bakery is located at 621 Center St., Lewiston. Hours of operation are 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and Sunday from 8 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.

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