Mangia restaurant closes its doors

Mangia restaurant at 1800 Capitol Ave. in Midtown has gone dark, announcing its closure Tuesday evening on its Facebook page.

The “gourmet sandwich shop” was part of the Italian-themed restaurant group co-owned by Dave Virga and Mark Scribner, which includes three Paesanos, one Pronto and two Uncle Vito’s Slice of New York.

According to a post on restaurant’s Facebook page, the former Mangia space will be devoted to accommodating special-occasion groups as part of a new banquet program.

“Thank you for your support over the past 18 months,” the post reads in part. “Due to the large volume of requests for large party dining at Paesanos Midtown that we cannot currently accommodate, we have begun the conversion of Mangia into a banquet space for large groups looking for a Paesanos dining experience. Our banquet menu will soon be available at Look for some of your favorite Mangia sandwiches to make an appearance on the menu at Paesanos and Pronto.”

A call to Paesanos director of operations Dana Scarpulla has yet to be returned. However, Scarpulla was quoted my Feb. 28 “Counter Culture” review of the restaurant: “We get requests on a weekly basis (to accommodate) special-occasion groups of 30 or more at Paesanos (which is next door to Mangia). So we’re putting together a banquet program to serve groups larger than we’re able to serve at Paesanos. It will fuse some of what Mangia does and some of what Paesanos does. But (during the day) Mangia will stay Mangia.”

In hindsight, the restaurant’s closure doesn’t seem that surprising.

On our visits, Mangia felt uneven and lacking focus. For one thing, the space was uncomfortably cold. For another, though it was beer-centric (a dozen on tap, up to 30 in bottles), it moved up its closing time to 6 p.m. in February, effectively preventing customers from stopping by for a couple of brews after work.

The sandwiches were imaginative and priced under $10, but the ones we sampled were just OK. The best of the bunch was heavy with house-cured pastrami; the weakest was a daily-special chicken shawarma, a mess served on stale pita bread.

Though Paesanos is an icon on the Capitol Avenue restaurant corridor, we thought the success of a sandwich shop might be iffy, given the competition it faced from Waterboy, Jack’s Urban Eats, Zocalo and the new Plan B outpost, to name a few. Still, there’s no doubt it will be missed. After all, a restaurant closure is never a good thing.