Food & Drink » Food Review

Mancino's Pizza and Grinders

On one plate then the other ... BW sends two critics to one restaurant.

When Hemingway wrote about food--so the myth goes--he made sure he was hungry. Read that passage where Nick Adams cooks spaghetti and beans in "Big, Two-Hearted River" if you doubt it. And while it can help with reviews, it's not always a good idea to be starving when getting ready to write for the reading masses about some restaurant. There's the ubiquitous chance of overselling mere mediocrity. But being really hungry is the best way to walk into Mancino's Pizza and Grinders. You can fill the largest hunger hole imaginable in this place. Thankfully, the food is also really, really good.

I'm just a few minutes past finishing my fourth piece of a damn fine pizza called "The Stromboli Special"--a classic conglomeration of sausage, pepperoni, salami, onion and mushroom. Four pieces for me, two for the Pizza Maven, two big pieces for the fridge.

This was our third trip into Mancino's: twice for pizza, once for their grinders (delicious, Italian-style sandwiches on homemade bread with Italian "Sub Sauce"). The pizza here is the kind you picture in your head when you think "Mmm, pizza." Nothing special, no weird toppings. It is a straightforward, blue-collar, hot and delectable pie. The crust is crisp, light and unpretentious (like a Hemingway sentence). The scattering of toppings travel a razor's edge of fabulous flavor from the center out, creating perfect coverage; the red sauce is subtle, not overbearing. A 16-inch pepperoni costs just $12.50. A delicious bargain.

And really, the pizza plays second fiddle to the grinders. Mancino's bread--homemade, oven-baked--is fabulous. The sandwiches come in six-inch and 12-inch subs. The fixings are copious, and extra helpings can be added for a few cents more. Everything can be added or taken away, depending on the eater's whims. Sure, the same can be said at those "factory line" sandwich shops, but at Mancino's be assured that your grinder has been prepared like Hemingway himself is describing the process. And, if you order when you get there, you can watch the entire preparation from start to finish. It is a palatable pleasure to behold.

Grinder varieties go from the basic Ham and Cheese (with mayo and tomato), Roast Beef, and Turkey to the extravagant: Italian Combo (ham, sausage, salami, mushrooms, onion green pepper, cheese), Meatball, Albacore Tuna, BBQ Beef, Pizza Sub & Cheese. And filling? I took home a 12-inch Steak and Cheese--with mushrooms, onion, green pepper, mayo and tomato--and it covered lunch for two days. Big sandwich.

The service at Mancino's is a throwback to the corner deli in large cities. Our illustrious Art Director has in all aspects of her life and work a discriminating nature and exquisite taste, and she loves Mancino's. The owner knows her, knows her usual order and takes care of her. There is a kind of practical camaraderie involved when you order. It's the owner/cook and you--with nothing but your order in between.

The location (right across the street from Boise State) low prices and gigantic servings all make Mancino's a great college eatery. The building itself is small--just a half-dozen tables, or so--but the service is fast and efficient. Order in, and the beverage refills are free. Mancino's has created its own terrific niche in the Italian sub and pizza realm. Its food is good, there's lots of it, and it doesn't cost much. Make it your next stop for lunch. You can't go wrong, and you'll certainly go back.

--Chuck McHenry is to the long dash what Hemingway is to the short clause.

There's a guy in Alaska who's got a lot of beer to drink. He makes weather vanes out of beer cans and accepts the contents as payment. His work has become so popular that he has accumulated stacks of 12 packs demanding to be finished. There couldn't be a more Homeric nirvana--having to drink more beer just so you can get your work done. The owner of Mancino's on Broadway possesses one of these sought after weather vanes. The prized contraption sits obscurely near a vent above his pizza ovens, spinning away quietly in, well, vain. I hope that Mancino's doesn't share the same fate as the weather vane. This tiny restaurant squeezed into a small slot on Broadway offers up great grinders and satisfying pizzas that shouldn't be ignored.

I invited my ex-fighter pilot buddy along in the hopes of cheering him up. He really misses bombing the hell out of people, and every day that the Iraqi war drags on is another painful reminder that he left the military one conflict too soon.

We arrived at Mancino's on a foggy, quiet weeknight. There are only nine tables in the restaurant, and we were grateful for the warmth radiating from the nearby kitchen. The close quarters made it easy to carry on a conversation with the gracious and engaging owner. He strongly suggested we try the grinders--their specialty--but we were in the mood for pizza. The owner looked disappointed when we insisted on ordering a green pepper, onion, mushroom and pepperoni pie and a couple of dinner salads.

"You'll like it, but we're really known for our grinders," he added, acquiescing to our request.

The owner's comments reminded my buddy of the similarities between food and bombing campaigns--imagine thinking that way. He admitted that annihilating whole city blocks and guilty bystanders was more satisfying than taking out something small, like a bridge or a health clinic, but emphasized that the real success of a sortie hinged on destroying precisely what you set out to bomb. Using that militaristic standard, our dinner was a resounding success. The owner promised us good food, and that's just what we got. Our salads consisted of shredded iceberg lettuce, grated cheese and black olives. A straightforward oil-based Italian dressing was on the side along with some saltines. Our pizza tasted fresh and easily met our hungry standards for the evening. My buddy's only regret was that they didn't serve beer.

A few days later I decided to take the owner up on his suggestion to have a grinder, so I returned for an Italian combo. Once again, the proprietor was there alone making the dinners, checking on tables and even carrying orders out to customers' cars. My repeat visit was well worth the effort of weaving through traffic on Broadway. My six-inch grinder (kidding aside, it looked much longer) was loaded with pepperoni, sausage, ham, peppers, onions and melted mozzarella and Monterey jack cheese. The grinders are served hot on toasted bread. Despite the intimidating lineup of ingredients, my meal was surprisingly light, and easy to eat because the meat was chopped into small pieces. Ease of ingestion may seem like a minor point, but it's an important factor to consider when you're grabbing a bite to go. Mancino's would be an excellent place to stop for takeout on the way out of town via Broadway.

So the next time you find yourself near Boise State with a hunger that needs abating, pull into Mancino's. The business deserves our support, and better yet, you'll get exactly what you need.

--Waj Nasser is a doctor (kidding aside, he looks a lot more like a trapeze artist).