Less than a year after opening, the owners of Mangiamo Italian Cuisine & Catering have taken a big step towards growing their restaurant by moving it into the former location of Hugo's on South Main Street.
"Not only had we had outgrown our kitchen, but we really needed to have more tables for our customers," said Carrie Vescio, co-owner of the restaurant. "It is a very big move, but after a lot deliberation and prayer, we came to the conclusion that it was something we needed to do."
Vescio cofounded the restaurant with her sister Amiee SanNicolas. The two Philadelphia natives opened Mangiamo in June 2009 in a renovated South Main Street home next to the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"It was a great place to get started, and that location was very good to us," Vescio said. "It just got to that point where we needed to do something."
Both SanNicolas and Vescio are quick to acknowledge the unusual amount of help that has been given to them by their friends and loyal customers allowing for a relatively seamless transition during the transition.
"We would not have been able to make this happen without the help that we have had," SanNicolas said. "From cleaning floors, and blinds, and ceilings, we have been very blessed by the outpouring of love and support. Our church even donated an ice machine for us. We could not have done all of this by ourselves. We are so grateful."
Two of the restaurant's most loyal customers have been Jahmal and Allison Rainey. Jahmal Rainey became familiar with the restaurant through Pat SanNicolas, Aimee's husband.
"I know Pat, because he delivers the mail to Georgia Southern," Rainey said. "He told me that I needed to check out his wife's restaurant, because he knew that I also was from Philadelphia. The food was really good, and the service was great. I decided to try and help them any way that I can."
Rainey began emailing and telling everyone he knew about Mangiamo. "I have come here so many times, that I feel like I am part of a family," he said. "I am a student and an employee of Georgia Southern. Now, I also help by washing dishes at the restaurant. They are wonderful people. You just want to be here."
Vescio and SanNicolas are passionate about Italian cooking using many of the recipes that have been passed down from their ancestors. "We cook for our customers the way that my mother and grandmother cooked for us," Vescio. "This is hearty Italian cooking with everything made from scratch every day. It is labor intensive, but we both feel like that is the way that you have to do it. "
Vescio said there was a point in the first few months when they weren't sure if they would be able to make the business work.
"It has been a tough business climate for the last several months, and we felt that," she said. "When we told our customers in the beginning that we weren't sure that we would make it, everyone rallied around us."
Vescio said she and her sister were both amazed and overwhelmed by the response. "Our customers went into high gear emailing, passing out flyers, and just telling everyone about us," she said. "We were overwhelmed by the love and compassion shown to us. Business really picked up, and we have done well. Again, we are so grateful."
Statesboro residents Andy and Carol Ellis were among those compelled to help the restaurant succeed. Food prepared locally with a homemade touch was important to the Ellis's.
"They are very conscientious about the food that they prepare," Carol Ellis said. "Everything is fresh, and the quality is nice. Importantly, they really want to please their customer. From letting me know that vegetarian lasagna is being prepared that day to serving angel hair pasta for my husband, they go the extra mile to serve the customer."
Andy Ellis is one of those loyal customers who helped clean the new location. "I happened into their restaurant one day, and just fell in love with the food," he said. "All of their food is made from scratch. It is just wonderful. I am very happy for them that they are able to expand."
The restaurant has become known for its Philly cheese steak sandwiches, only produced on Wednesday.
"Philly cheese steak Wednesday is just wild," Vescio said. "My husband gets up at 5:00 a.m. on Wednesday mornings and prepares the beef. We start serving lunch at 11:00 a.m. Usually by 12:30 p.m., the sandwiches have all been sold. People love the beef, but they also love the rolls that we order from Philadelphia for the sandwich."