This food review is partially dedicated to Robert Vadra, clinic Italy-born Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law. His whacky “mango people in banana republic” post on his Facebook page, which inspired so many newspaper column inches in October, drugs was my news peg to choose Panjim’s Italian restaurant Café Mangii for a food review. Why? Because ‘Mangii’ is Italian for mango.
I’ll talk about the food when I get to the restaurant. Because before you get there, Café Mangii ‘compulsorily’ offers its patrons an opportunity for a quick cardio workout, before savouring the cheese and baked meats. The long flight of stairs leading to the promised Italian comfort on the first storey is as good a workout as any.
Once there, smart waiters clad in bright yellow tee-shirts and warm lights against rustic walls take over. Mangii is one of the few restaurants in Panjim which still like to flaunt the traditional clay-tiled high roof and thick rafters running from wall to wall, instead of more slick and modern interiors.
On to dinner, from a liberal spread of salads, I chose Jamaican Jerked Spice (Rs 295), which had prawns and diced pineapple bits tossed in a Thousand Island dressing, fortified with a dash of Tabasco sauce. The salad was served in a hollowed out pineapple, which looked fancy, but serving it appeared to be a nightmare for the waiter, who was having a tough time getting to the bits at the bottom. The Jamaican Jerked Spice had narrowly edged out another interesting salad with watermelon and feta cheese (Rs 335), which I was on the verge of ordering.
The Tabasco’s bite worked well with the sweet and sour taste of the pineapple, making the mouth water for the main course, the Quattro Formaggi pizza (Rs 475) and Conchiglie Ciocara (Rs 445). The pizza, like the name suggests, was baked with four cheeses, mozzarella, gorgonzola, gruyere and parmesan, and didn’t have a sauce for a base. The serving was generous and the napolitana crust thin and crisp like a fine biscuit, but I needed a very fine spray of Tabasco and a sprinkle of chilli flakes to nudge my Indian sensibilities (read spicy) to accept the pizza holistically.
The creamy conch-shaped pasta with sausages, ham and bacon had a bit of rebellion seething within. While the pepper-sprinkled cream was thick and rich, the pre-cooked meats in it somehow refused to blend in with the creamy smoothness. The bacon in particular appeared to lead the resistance, with its coarse edges disrupting the creamy sauce and the perfectly cooked pasta.
The chocolate fondue (Rs 295) which followed came with an assorted platter of chopped kiwi fruit, musk melon, apples, marshmallows and cake.
But the ‘real’ sweetener turned out to be a flat 30 per cent discount on the billed amount. That’s Café Mangii’s love for Goa. So run up the flight of stairs as quickly as possible, the discount lasts until November-end.
WINES: From Rs 150 for a glass of house wine to Rs 6500 for a Moets and Chandon champagne.
WHAT’S ODD: A very constricted range of pastas for a place which banks only on Italian cuisine.
PRICE: Ranges between 245 to Rs 600, unless it’s a lobster you are craving for.
RATING: A notch above average.