Charlie and Lauren LaMantia pose in their Greenville restaurant, Cucina LaMantia Sicilian Ristorante (252Buzz photo by Bill Hudson)
By Jane Welborn Hudson
Cucina LaMantia Sicilian Ristorante
3700-E S. Memorial Drive (corner of Thomas Langston Road)
6 p.m. seatings only, Wednesdays-Sundays (expect the 14-course dinner to take at least 3 hours)
$42 per person plus tip, cash only
A new Greenville restaurant invites you to become a member of its owners' Sicilian family for a night -- gathering friends and strangers together for 14 courses of authentic Italian food and warm hospitality at a fixed price.
Cucina LaMantia (la-mahn-TEE-ah), which opened Dec. 1, is a unique concept for the area. Chef Charlie LaMantia said it's modeled on a tiny 35-year-old restaurant in New Jersey.
"I eliminate everybody's problems with going out to eat," Charlie said. "You come at 6 p.m. and you don't wait for a table; your table is reserved and ready. You don't have to wait for any food; the first course (a cold antipasto) is already on the table. And there isn't any decision-making about what to order -- there's no menu."
Charlie, a culinary school graduate who grew up in the restaurant business, prepares 14 different small dishes from scratch for each dinner service.
"Our purpose is to give you simple authentic Sicilian dishes without the fuss," said Charlie, whose family is from Palermo.
Charlie LaMantia and his popular bruschetta. (Photo via Cucina LaMantia)
The fare is served family style at each table. Although the specific preparations may vary, the dinners will include bruschetta, Panelle (a type of fritter that's a popular street food in Sicily), two pasta dishes, a meatball dish, a sausage course, a chicken dish, a pork dish, a veal dish, a shrimp dish, filet mignon and dessert. (Charlie notes that half of the courses are vegetarian and he can modify two others -- ask when you make a reservation.)
Some of the fare included in the 14-course meals at Cucina LaMantia. (Photos via Cucina LaMantia)
Tea and water is included, but you may bring other beverages of your choice (with no corking fee).
Each course is presented in 10 to 15 minute intervals by Charlie's bubbly wife Lauren and his son Dominic.
The cost per person is $42 plus tax, cash only.
There is one seating at 6 p.m. each night the restaurant is operating, and reservations are required, usually within 24 hours (48 hours if you desire a vegetarian menu).
Lauren said she visits each table throughout the night and encourages conversations among patrons. Music is playing -- and guests are invited to grab a microphone and sing along or get up and dance.
The entire experience takes close to 3 hours, Lauren said. And if 14 courses prove to be too much for you to eat, your leftovers will be boxed up to take home.
Patrons may even bring cigars and join Chef Charlie for an after-dinner smoke at the outdoor tables.
"We want to welcome you to our family," Lauren said.
The LaMantias moved to Greenville from northern New Jersey at the encouragement of a friend, whose wife was born and raised here. After visiting a number of times, they moved here and began working on the restaurant, which is located in the space formerly occupied by Andy's/Hwy 55.
The restaurant's dark tan and faux brick walls are hung with family pictures and fun graphic canvases. There's a black-and-white checkerboard floor and red accents.
Cucina LaMantia is available for parties and events.
Jane Welborn Hudson, a native of Greenville, wrote The Daily Reflector's Hot Dish restaurant column for 12 years and the Greensboro News & Record's Short Orders restaurant column for 8 years. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.