New Year Promises Two New Downtown Davidson Dining Options
The new year will bring Davidson two new restaurants.
“Mandolino’s” will serve up pizza at 208 S. Main Street, the former location of Millstone Bakery. And in the South Main commercial district, the former Campania restaurant will be reincarnated as the “Davidson Ice House” restaurant. The name pays homage to the building’s original purpose when it was built in 1922.
Management of both restaurants are hoping they’ll open in February.
Mandolino’s has already hung its custom-made, Hollywood-style sign outside its second floor. A close look reveals that the sign is shaped and inscribed as the fret board of a mandolin. Managing partners Jason Tognarina and Bill Schutz said the name was selected because another partner in the business, Michael Orlando, is a virtuoso mandolin player who will occasionally play for diners.
Mandolino’s roots are just across Main Street, where Tognarina, Schutz and four other partners own and manage Flatiron. Its success led them to a several years search for a suitable location for a second restaurant. When Millstone shuttered, Tognarina and his partners recognized that just-across-the-street space as the answer to their search.
Mandolino’s will specialize in a “grandma’s” style pizza—rectangular, medium crust, and either ordered from the menu, or custom-made to the diner’s preferences. It will seat up to 100 people on two floors. The top floor, formerly home of The Upper Crust, will be reserved initially for groups and parties. The fare will initially be pizza and salad, but Tognarina said pasta and sandwiches, and delivery service, may be added eventually.
Bill Schutz, executive chef and managing partner at Flatiron, will hold those same titles at Mandolino’s. He has worked as a chef at restaurants all over the world, including the famous “Bouley” in New York City under chef David Bouley.
Jenny Brulé defined the fare at The Davidson Ice House as “fast casual flexitarian.” Diners will place their orders at the counter and then have a seat and wait for the food to arrive. Davidson Ice House will serve bowls, naan bread sandwiches, soups and salads with warm cookies for dessert. Customers can choose from artisan designed bowls and sandwiches, or have their order custom-built. Whole grains, rice, or fresh greens can be topped with humanely raised, antibiotic-free proteins like braised beef brisket, grilled chicken, or vegetarian patties. Then, a plethora of freshly roasted, grilled, or pickled vegetables will be finished with house-made sauces, inspired by global cuisines. Brulé noted that menu items will be friendly for vegetarians, gluten free, paleo, and meat-and-potato diets.
In addition to eating inside and on the building’s large covered porch, diners can pick up a chilled and vacuum-packed quart of prepared food to take home until it’s time to be reheated for supper.
Brulé has about 25 years of experience in food culture. She graduated from Baltimore International Culinary College, and she has published books and written articles in food magazines. Her most recent book is titled “Learn to Cook 25 Southern Classics 3 Ways.” She also has a book forthcoming titled “New Vegetarian South: 105 Inspired Dishes for Everyone.”
Brulé is also a regular local television chef on NBC 6 from 9:30-10 a.m. on Sundays. She has also appeared nationally on Headline News Weekend Express, and is scheduled to appear there again on January 6.
Though excited about the venture, Brulé confessed that Davidson Ice House is a big financial risk. And though she has extensive expertise in cooking and food culture, and was the executive chef opening the Barcelona Burger Bar in Mooresville, this is Brulé’s first-ever attempt to run a restaurant of her own. “This is just the first time everything fell into place,” she explained. She has the time needed, and she finally found a historical building with character and charm in the town she’s called home since 2010, where people are generally more curious about food. “I’ve loved Davidson from the first time I saw it,” she said.
Two more restaurants on Main Street may seem like too many for a small town, but the new managers believe there’s room and opportunity here in Davidson.
Tognarina said, “Restaurants are making Davidson a destination town, and a rising tide lifts all boats. There are a lot of good restaurants in town with lots of good owners, and everybody’s busy. But we’re all doing something different! Maybe the town will reach a threshold eventually, but at this point there is certainly room for more.”
Bill Giduz was the son who followed his father’s footsteps into journalism. He has been involved his entire life with news and photography in schools he attended and jobs he’s held. He believes now that he’s got a few good years left to devote to The News of Davidson.