Mandola’s Italian Kitchen is closer to opening in Mandarin now that the city issued a permit Feb. 1 for the $1.5 million build-out of the concept, which has its roots in Texas and Florida.
RPC General Contractors Inc. of Atlantic Beach is the contractor for the project to renovate 6,452 square feet of space at the end unit of Claire Lane Center at 11112 San Jose Blvd.
Area developer Dan Rainville, a joint venture partner, said in August he hoped to open in February or March and hire 55-65 employees. That timeline likely has changed. The Mandolas.com site says the Jacksonville location is coming soon.
Founder Damian Mandola, a restaurateur since 1975, also co-founded Carrabba’s Italian Grill.
Fast-casual Mandola’s has a full Italian menu as well as pastries, cakes, specialty cakes, gelato and sorbetto. The Jacksonville location will have a full bar, Rainville said.
He said the food is “made-from-scratch original recipes” and the restaurant has an open kitchen and fresh bakery.
The Mandolas.com site shows four restaurants open in Texas and three in Florida, with three more coming to the state, including Jacksonville.
The Florida locations that are open are in Riverview, Oldsmar and Carrollwood. Those coming soon are in Jacksonville, Orlando and Odessa.
Rainville, the joint venture partner for Jacksonville and Orlando development, said he plans eight to 10 sites in those markets, with two on the books each for Jacksonville and Orlando.
He said in August he was in negotiations in the Beachwalk area in St. Johns County. A site plan for the community shows a lease pending for an Italian restaurant along County Road 210.
Rainville hopes to put at least four to six in the Jacksonville area.
He said the Jacksonville restaurant in Claire Lane Center will seat about 180 customers inside and on the patio.
Jon W. Sammer of Fairfax, Virginia, is the architect.
Mandolas.com’s Florida menu offers dining, lunch, wine and beer, happy hour, family package meals and catering.
Rainville said it has a mobile pizza oven for catering.
The online Florida menu shows daily specials such as $16 linguine and clam sauce on Wednesday, $17 shrimp scampi on Friday and $14.50 baked ziti on Sunday.
The dining menu features pasta dishes, antipasti, chicken, soups, salads, pizza, sides and a children’s menu.
Lunch items include soup and salad, pasta, pizza and paninis.
The bakery offers cookies, cakes and specialty cakes, and gelato and sorbetto.
Rainville said site selection is “based on income and demographics and future growth of that area.”
He noted that Claire Lane Center has a Trader Joe’s grocery store. Sleiman Enterprises is the landlord.
Rainville says on LinkedIn he is the Jacksonville/Orlando joint venture director of operations.
He also spent 18 years as joint venture partner and area developer for Carrabba’s Italian Grill.
Mandolas.com says Damian Mandola opened Damian’s Fine Italian Food in 1975 at age 22 in Huntsville, Texas, as a college senior at Sam Houston State University.
Mandola then became a fixture in Houston with D’Amico’s and Damian’s Cucina Italiana.
He then founded Carabba’s with his nephew, Johnny Carrabba, in 1986 in Houston.
Trina Mandola started in the restaurant industry in high school working for Swinging Door Bar-B-Que in her hometown of Richmond, Texas.
The Mandolas moved to the Austin area and opened Mandola’s Italian Market.
Restaurantbusinessonline.com reported Sept. 28, 2020, that Damian Mandola started the initial plans for a fast-casual concept nearly two decades before while visiting Italian delis and bakeries on the East Coast.
The report said that experience became Mandola’s Italian Kitchen, which opened its first unit in 2006 in Austin, Texas.
The report said Mandola presented the restaurant brand to Paul Avery, former president and COO of Outback Steakhouse. They had known each other since 1991, when Mandola still was with Carrabba’s.
The first Mandola’s Italian Kitchen of their partnership opened in Tampa, where Avery lived.
Each Mandola’s Italian Kitchen has a managing partner. The restaurant started a managing partner program to provide general managers with the opportunity to earn equity.
Damian and Trina Mandola and Paul Avery partnered for the Florida expansion and across the U.S.