Mandola's is the closest you'll get to Italy without leaving Austin. Houston restaurateur, winemaker, cooking-show host, and cookbook author Damian Mandola (co-founder of the Carrabba's Italian Grill restaurant chain) opened this throwback "neighborhood grocery store" and the attached café in 2006 in the equally new Triangle apartment complex just north of Central Market. Mandola gets it right with house-made sausage, mozzarella, artisanal breads, cakes, and cookies.
They serve up panini, soups, salads, and antipasti, and daily fresh ravioli specials. The pastas, the very decent southern Italian-style pizza, the vegetarian sandwich, and the pignoli cookies are especially good, and the coffees deliver. The staff is friendly and well-trained, and the atmosphere is welcoming. You can also purchase wine from Mandola's winery out in Driftwood, 28 miles southwest.