Lori Brown · Feb 19, 2020 · 4 min read
On our quest to update our 10 Best Italian list for 2020, we ate at a lot of Italian restaurants this past December and January. Many beloved restaurants didn’t pass the test at all. Mano's opened in Gulfport last year and we had heard great things but we had not yet made it in. Wow am I glad we did. We were completely blown away.
Mano's is located off the beaten path, for Gulfport, as it is not on the main drag in town. It sits in a strip mall off of 58th St S. From the exterior, you would not expect a warm, cozy atmosphere but it certainly delivers the warm and fuzzy inside.
Mano’s service was beyond professional starting with our server Eljon (pronounced Elyon) who was more than knowledgeable from wine to every dish on the menu.
And then the food...close to perfection. The Calamari Fritti (tender pacific coast calamari, lightly seasoned and fried golden to perfection and served with roasted garlic aioli and marinara) was a delicious delight with surprise breaded and fried peppers mixed in with the squid and two deliciously seasoned sauces.
The bread was piping hot, pillowy, doughnut-like bites (but not sweet) with scrumptious EVOO dipping sauce. I would recommend eating the bread while it's hot, once it cools, it’s not nearly as good.
Our dishes came with a salad. Kevin opted for the Caesar which is a $2 up charge and he said it was the best he has had in our Italian eating excursions over those few weeks.
Mine was the house, and while basic, still fresh, crisp and the dressing a house-made cross between an Italian and a tangy French. A great change-up.
Kevin ordered the Spaghetti Con Polpette Di Carne Di Salsiccia which is spaghetti and meatballs with sweet Italian sausage served with fresh tomatoes and basil. He LOVED this dish. The sausage was cooked perfectly, the sauce seasoned well, and he even approved of and really liked the meatballs (which is no small feat).
I ordered the Housemade Lasagna Bolognese (fresh pasta layered with their assortment of ground meats and cheeses, topped with melted mozzarella) which is made with their delicious bolognese which they make with veal, pork and beef. The lasagna was delicious, thick, rustic and hearty. The only thing I noted is that it seems they use a really strong Parmesan cheese on top which I felt overpowered the other flavors and I couldn’t really taste the bolognese. A lighter tasting Parmesan would totally fix that.
After we had finished, we met the co-owner, Kela Mano, and she insisted that we try the house made gnocchi (I believe this is a special as it wasn't on the menu) and it was delicious. Kela was delightful! She and her brother are co-owners of the restaurant.
We brought home the Short Rib Ragu (Short rib beef Ragu sautéed with mushrooms served over fresh housemade pappardelle) for my son. He’s a tough one to impress and he loved it! And we got a bite too. It was amazing, rich and hearty.
Everything was so good, that I recommended to my parents that we go there for dinner the very next week as I was dying to try the Veal Ala Limoncello (tender scaloppini of chicken or veal, egg battered and pan fried finished with lemon and white wine franchaise sauce served over linguine or with chef's vegetables). I love veal piccata! The flavors were on point, light, tangy and lively and the coating on the veal was airy and decadent. I did feel it was swimming in way too much sauce. It should be a topping not a pool. But because it was great in all other regards, I would definitely order it again. My father and my son had the Short Rib Ragu, again. That is a testament in and of itself. And my mother had a reengineered version of a dish that doesn't exist on the menu, but she liked it very much.
Can’t wait to get there to try the Perchi (bolognese made with Penne pasta) and their pizza which I hear is outstanding. These dishes have had rave reviews online. If you haven’t been - go! One of the best Italian restaurants we have encountered.
Fine Italian Dining in Gulfport, FL