Café Mangii in Panjim has been boasting of a new look and a completely revamped dining experience. Revati Upadhya tests this claim at an impromptu Friday night dinner.

Two things that really stood out the moment we entered Café Mangii were a fresh coat of paint and some new bistro-style chairs, so we settled into a two-seater, tucked away at the far end of the restaurant, in a quaint alcove of a balcony. Mangii is another one of Panjim’s restaurants housed in a restored old building. Tastefully done up, it retains it high roof, wooden rafters and small balconies, typical to the Portuguese style of architecture. And in keeping with the quaint and intimate setting, we started off with a glass of Sula Rosé (Rs 400).

It can make all the difference in whisking you away from the hustle-bustle of Panjim and straight into Italian fine-dining eatery.

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We could see the wood-fired oven from where we were seated and watching the chef deftly work the dough into super thin pizzas, dusting them with an assortment fresh ingredients and herbs, we instantly knew what we were going to eat for dinner. But before that, round one of food included the somewhat less indulgent skewered herbed grilled chicken (Rs 325). Served quickly and with a side of soft garlic-mint aioli, we devoured it faster than we could say Café-Mangii. Few restaurants get the tricky-to-balance aioli right, but here, the mint and garlic complemented each other perfectl

When the wine and appetizers go hand in hand perfectly, it’s easy to indulge yourself. But we saved just enough space for our made-to-order pizza (Rs 485-600), which had assorted toppings of barbecued chicken bits, mushrooms and pineapple (especially since the restaurant claimed to use fresh instead of the tinned fruit). For some variety, we also ordered a Spinach and ricotta ravioli, in a creamy white wine sauce (Rs 415).

Aside from the good food, the service at Mangii was particularly impressive. Not just prompt and efficient, the staff was receptive, quick to note the little details – promptly refilling an empty wine glass and noticing that we enjoyed the garlic aioli, because when we had finished, a second serving was quickly presented without even asking for it. We also appreciated the waiter’s confident suggestion to add pineapple to the pizza – which we were hesitant to try at first but grateful for 1 (1)

The pizza arrived and tasted as great as it looked and we were pleased with what felt like a whole-wheat base. The ravioli on the other hand was a tad too rich, with the cream sauce overpowering the delicate pasta pockets of spinach and ricotta. Having said that, it was still quite flavourful.

On to sweeter things, what is an Italian meal without Dolci – or something sweet? A serving of Chocolate mousse (Rs 195) came gallantly to the rescue here. Yes, it was the safe choice, but we went with our at that point, our bellies screamed, “Chocolate!” We’re glad to report, the mousse was soft, fluffy and perfectly luscious without being overpowering.

So what’s really new at Mangii? We’d have to say that although the food was good, it was not particularly new. The efficient, helpful service won brownie points this time around and if you’re looking for the all-new Mangii experience, you now know what to look out for when you get here.

Must try: Wood fire pizza, Ravioli
Meal for two: Rs 1600 to 2000 (exclusive of taxes)