Mangia Mangia Mobile - Five Course Prix Fixe

>> Monday, June 27, 2011

Date of Dining: 6/16/2011
Price: $20 for 5 course prix fixe, $5 for special order, around $6-9 for items normally
Last Known Weekly Lunch Schedule:
Mon: General Atomic Ct, 92121
Tue: 10150 Sorrento Valley Rd and 1250 Cave St, La Jolla
Wed: 3rd and B
Thu: Ameritrade Sorrento Valley and Scripps Hospital on 550 Washington
Fri: 1250 Cave St, La Jolla

Weekly 5 Course Prix Fixe:
$20 for 5 courses @57 Degrees Wine Bar, 1735 Hancock St

The Quick Bit:
+ Amazing Hospitality - felt like I was talking to a long lost uncle
+ Creative to do a prix fixe dinner menu
+ Ask them to sound the horn for you
+ Daring to do fish on a food truck
Δ Cooking temperatures of the proteins could use work
Δ The chef should cook what he wants instead of what he thinks other people want

I actually had two experiences with Mangia Mangia. The first time, I was dragged into it by my friend and all anonymity was lost. I also found out that they changed the food based on what they thought I would want. As a result of that, I told them that I would attend one of their evening prix fixe menus for the blog post instead. I'll show some photos from the first meal, but refrain from further comments.

In my previous posts here, here, and here, I discussed some of the entrepreneurial aspects of choosing to open a food truck or run a pop-up restaurant. What seems to get lost in that at times is the type of people who run one enterprise or the other.

Mangia Mangia Mobile is a Gourmet Food Truck run by Marko Pavlinovic and Chef Enzo Mauri, who met while working at the popular Trattoria Acqua at Pasquale on Prospect in La Jolla prior to it closing. Chef Mauri received his culinary education in Terni (Umbria), Italy where his grandparents owned a Trattoria. As a youth, he would spend time with his grandmother and mother in the kitchen. Mauri later refined his culinary education in several Italian kitchens in Rome before moving to the USA in 1991. Chef Mauri worked in several San Diego kitchens including Tuscany and Sante Ristorante before opening Pasquale to much success. Pavlinovic worked as a waiter at Pasquale, where the two met and decided to form a partnership to take advantage of the Gourmet Food Truck boom. Chef Enzo describes his food as "old school Italian recipes" that he "ate while growing up at home."

Recently, the food truck boom or revolution that hit LA and OC two years ago has finally taken effect in San Diego. In the past three months, there seems to be about two new trucks opening for operation each month. The streets that were once devoid of food trucks now have food trucks parked in the same general vicinity every day of the week. It has gotten to the point where some food truck owners have gotten possessive with their spots and don't want others to park at their favored locations even on the days they are not there.

Another recent trend in SD is the food truck gatherings. In these situations, the general public is charged a fee to enter the event (anywhere from $5-10) only so they can pay more for food at each of the trucks. Further, certain unscrupulous promoters of these events allegedly charge the trucks anywhere from $200-$500 or 10% of the proceeds for participating in these events.

Yet another challenge of the food trucks are the guerrilla social networking trendy hipsters that like to complain about random things at the four-letter review site. So the only time you attended an event was at a food truck gathering where you saw a huge line of people in front of you. Yet, you still decided to order the food and then you complain that you had to wait 30 minutes for the food to cook? Would you rather they pre-cook your food so it tastes all soggy and nasty?

So with all of these obstacles, what would possess someone to try and run a food truck? I've met several owners of several different food trucks, and for the most part, I am truly humbled by most of them. A lot of people who choose to run the food trucks are great human beings; better than I will ever be. I think to some extent, I hope that some of their innate goodness will rub off on me. Mako was the epitome of this quality in food truck owners; he made me feel like a long lost member of his family when I was with him, and I watched as he made every other diner that evening feel the exact same way. He told jokes to lighten the mood and made the cold, dreary atmosphere of the wine bar light up. I hope that one day when some people come over for food, I will be able to convey the same feeling to my guests because it was easily the most memorable part of the meal.
First Course:
Pear and Gorgonzolla Salad
The pear brought an element of sweetness to the salad that contrasted the gorgonzolla. A thick Italian dressing accompanied to tie the food together.

Second Course:
Bell Pepper Bruschetta
The bread was soggy and the mix was overly salty. The low point of the meal.
Spaghetti with Pesto
This dish was the highlight of the night. The pesto was freshly made, which gave the dish a mouth-watering aroma when served. The Parmesan and Perorino Romano cheese complimented each other well with the fresh herbs that topped the al dente spaghetti. The dish was well-seasoned, which brought out the flavor of the pesto and the cheeses. What really made this dish stand out was that the aroma continued throughout the eating experience, so that four senses were used to enjoy the meal instead of just three.

Fourth Course:
Chicken Breast stuffed with ham and broccoli
This was the better of the two entrees. The chicken was overcooked, but it remained moist in the center - it was very similar to a chicken cordon bleu except that it had an Italian cheese in the middle.
Halibut in tomato broth with peppers and capers
The halibut was overcooked, but maintained texture probably because it was steamed. This dish had a wonderful halibut aroma when it first came out, which made me think it might be the better dish, but the sauce seemed similar to the bruschetta dish and failed for the same reason.

A la carte:
Because I had arranged the meal, Marko asked me if there was anything I really wanted to try as a special request. I decided to pick an ingredient that would showcase the chef's skill
Trippa (tripe)
My thinking with the tripe was that a good chef should be able to take a cheap ingredient and make it taste good. I also knew that tripe was difficult to cook in that there is a window where it is soft enough to enjoy the texture without becoming too mushy. This tripe cooked up by Chef Enzo was excellent. The first bite had a biting white pepper twinge, but my palette adjusted by the second bite and I really enjoyed the flavors and textures.
Chef Enzo mentioned that he would really like to also include chicken hearts and chicken livers in the future.

Fifth Course:
It was nice to have dessert provided, but these were obviously made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator. I'm not sure there's any other choice, but not quite what is expected from a "gourmet food truck" in my opinion.

I went into this meal wondering why I was wasting an evening going out to eat at a food truck. However, Marko's ebullient personality rescued the evening for myself and my dinner companions. While I don't normally consider getting dinner from a food truck to be a great option, this meal certainly beats some restaurants that I've been to. I felt that the $20 was a fair price to pay, and I'm sure Chef Enzo will accommodate special dish requests provided you give enough notice.

I don't think I'm going to rush off and try dinner at every single food truck, but I think the Mangia Mangia experience opens the door for some talented chefs in other food trucks to try something similar.

I'll close with the food that was eaten at the first Mangia experience:
Lollipop (deep fried meatballs)
Spaghetti with Meatballs in Marinara Sauce
Salmon Panini
Gnocchi in Marinara Sauce


Rodzilla June 28, 2011 at 2:51 PM  

I haven't really gotten into the truck scene yet, but if these guys bring out chicken hearts and livers - I'll definitely seek them out.

WalkingCog June 28, 2011 at 6:11 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.

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gastro bits is a blog that juxtaposes the geeky with the foodie; it is an attempt to be educational about food, yet entertaining at the same time.
None of the reviews are meant to dissuade you from trying anything by yourself, but simply to provide information for you to make a more informed choice.
If any special treatment is provided to the blogger, full disclosure is presented at the beginning of the post.

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