Mandola's Deli Hits Home

Categories: On the Menu

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Photo by Kevin Shalin
Mandola's Deli is more than 30 years old, but I bet many of you reading this article didn't even know it existed. Don't feel bad, I didn't either. It's an east downtown neighborhood spot, located near the University of Houston and about a minute off I-45.

For years, the casual Italian restaurant served to a lunch crowd comprised predominantly of the UH crowd, along with blue collar industrial workers from nearby areas. The neighborhood around Mandola's has steadily changed, and with it, so has the restaurant. "We've seen an emerging shift in this neighborhood. So we decided to go along with it. It's time to start offering dinner," says General Manager Joseph Mandola.

Mandola's Deli is definitely a family affair. Joseph's dad, Frank, runs the place and is right behind the counter taking orders. I stopped by the other night to chat with Joseph for a few minutes. I identified myself and was kindly asked to wait a few minutes. There was a long table of about 20 people needing Joseph's attention.

In the meantime, I took in all that Mandola's Deli had to offer. At first glance, it doesn't seem like much. But it's there -- that warm, cozy atmosphere with those wood-paneling walls, adorned with old UH memorabilia and family pictures. I felt comfortable within minutes. Watching Frank and Joseph talk to customers, it seemed as if they had known them for years. Hell, maybe they did.

During my brief chat with Joseph, he was as laid-back, friendly and cordial as anyone I've met in the food industry.

The dinner experiment is a little over six weeks old. "Things are good, the word's spreading," says Joseph. And while the restaurant's hours have increased, that's not the only changes. They've expanded the parking lot, built a new 1,500-square-foot outdoor patio, added flat screen televisions, and tweaked the menu a bit. St. Arnold's beer is now offered on tap, along with a variety of Sicilian wines.

I sampled a few menu items, including a deviled egg, some spaghetti, and the Super Deluxe Po-Boy. The spaghetti was authentically awesome with a hint of spiciness on the back end. The deviled egg was the best I've ever eaten--creamy, sweet and tangy. And at $5.99, the Super Deluxe, in all of its cured meat glory, was crazy-good. Soft bread, thick slabs of ham, cheese and salami make this Italian po-boy one of the restaurant's most popular items. The reasonably priced menu also includes homemade lasagna and chicken marsala, along with various other soups, sandwiches, salads and pastas.

Come casual, and prepare to be treated well.



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Location Info

Mandola's Deli

4105 Leeland, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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13 comments
richard bludworth
richard bludworth

Ive been eating Frank's sandwiches since the deli was on Broadway in the 80's.I lost the place for nearly a decade after they moved but im a regular again !

O.C.
O.C.

If you like the deviled eggs, you're going to love the homemade potato salad.I started eating at Mandola's Deli original location on Broadway many years ago.The roast beef on white slightly toasted with baby-swiss cheese is awesome too.Great Food & Great People, Like Family!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

O.C. 

Thomasjclark
Thomasjclark

Great article - even better restaurant! Try the homemade Italian sausage, which I'd rate as the world's best.

Jennilynn14
Jennilynn14

Good food and welcoming atmosphere. And cant go wrong with st. Arnold. Hope dinner experiment pans out.

Shayden
Shayden

Great family, great food!

S Hayden

Andrea
Andrea

It always makes me laugh to see the tag line "Casual Mandola Dining" at Pronto Cucinino - Mandola's clearly has it all over Pronto and then some.

I'm particularly pleased that the fountain drinks now available include Mandola Cola and Diet Mandola Cola. I'm not going to give away the secret outright, but let's just say that they'd go great with a moonpie.

Dan
Dan

It helps to get out and experience Houston. Not sure why people who claim to be in the know foodwise miss so many places that are great. Instead they push bad food like El Real.

Kevin Shalin
Kevin Shalin

I live no where near Mandola's Deli, and I'd drive across town for their deviled eggs. Seriously.

Craig
Craig

Love this place. Eat'em-Up!

JB
JB

Terrific meatball subs too. Great review, I've been enjoying the deli for years. And you are spot on about the deviled eggs. I'll take them over Nielsen's any day.*

*I'd also take Nielsen's deviled eggs any day. I so love deviled eggs.

hoho
hoho

Finally! an authentic, time-tested Houston institution that truly deserves props. BTW, the original location (or an early one, at least, before Leland) was on the Southeast side in a strip center off Broadway near Hobby Airport. This family knows food. Italian / Sicilian American with a Texas twist that evokes the grocery stores and delis that peppered downtown and the wards after WWII. There's a reason it's always packed at lunch. Here's to hoping they don't over-extend themselves with the dinner offering, but with this family's know-how, it's bound to be a success.

Bruce R
Bruce R

You're the one that brought up El Real.

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