Updated: Mangia! restaurant closes at City Center in Carmel
By Pete Smith
Mangia!, an Italian restaurant located in Carmel’s City Center, has decided to shut its doors.
“We closed Saturday, March 1 at 10 p.m.,” said owner Lee Tyler. “That is all I would like to say for now.”
The restaurant had been locally owned and operated since 1997. Originally located in a building at the intersection of 116th Street and Range Line Road, the business moved to City Center in 2011.
Tyler said at the time that his restaurant’s move to City Center helped unearth a gem in the community.
“It’s a good restaurant, but people just wouldn’t give it a chance,” Tyler said of the restaurant’s days near 116th Street and Range Line Road. “We were still elegant inside, but it just didn’t have much curb appeal.”
With the move, Mangia! got an exterior appearance that matched its inside environment, Tyler said at the time. But the move also limited the restaurant’s available parking – it was only allocated four dedicated spots in the City Center garage.
In a letter posted to the Mangia! website, Tyler had the following to say:
Before that, I first want to thank the many guests who supported us faithfully at 3 different locations over 16+ years. I have already received numerous phone calls and e-mails expressing their overwhelming disappointment with what has occurred. It helps to comfort my family and me in this difficult time.
Mangia moved from Merchant Square to the location at 116th and Westfield in 2002. After ten years, it was time to move, given the condition of the center and the landlord not planning any real update to it.
With the new Carmel City Center, it seemed a perfect fit for us, and we made the move.
The new location was a smashing success the first year plus. While some had been quite attached to the old spot, the vast majority of our regulars appreciated the updated location, as did the new guests we attracted , and were very complimentary. Some of my favorite comments centered along the line of the restaurant having a “New York feel” (the founder, Gino Pizzi, from NYC/Italy, understands that) and noting the wonderful views with fountains and sunsets (one guest said he felt like he was in Milan.) No need to blacken the windows and fill the walls with “junk.”
Later, after additional tenants were signed on, I started hearing complaints about parking. We passed this along to the landlord and the city, but they disagreed.
New tenants kept being added, with no additional parking. I later discovered that many of the free spots in the parking garage below us were actually being used by renters at the apartments, so the spaces I thought would be available to my guests were not as many as expected. The landlord isolated 4 spots for us in the garage, Thu-Sat 6-9pm, but it was never enough. We saw a steady decline, and with the landlord continuing to deny parking as an issue, and signing yet more tenants, it became clear we could no longer sustain the operation. I was literally working seven nights a week, without pay, for 15 months, hoping and praying something would change to set a new course…it simply did not happen.
My kitchen staff has been with the restaurant for many, many years…almost unheard of in this business. The head chef, 15+ years, his second in command 9+ years, third in command 9+ years…even a dishwasher of 16 years, and two others 5+ years. It broke my heart to inform them two weeks in advance (giving them time to find new employment) of the closing and what I had to do. We kept that “inside baseball” so as to not disrupt the business further, and protect them as much as possible to the end.
There are no doubt other factors. We gained two new direct competitors. The economy, in my humble opinion, has been somewhat of an issue. Certainly this past winter has not helped. And the number of Palladium shows have dropped off noticeably. But we have always been able to weather those issues…but when ten percent or more of your guests on three-to-four nights a week walk in the door and complain about the parking, you are on a downward spiral.
I have had dozens (so far) of my guests, after having found out about the closing, asking about where we would re-open. Most of my staff, until the very end, were hoping I would change my mind, so they could stay, which simply was not possible. There were many tears shed the last two weeks, especially Saturday March 1st after we closed and all got together in the bar afterwards…a very special time. This kind of response actually makes me proud of what we did, and takes some of the sadness away. ..the ultimate compliment. However, I have no plans to re-open the Mangia or another restaurant at this time.
I would ask my guests of the past to find that new local spot, and give them your full-hearted support…and push them to do their very best.
Again, thanks to you all, God Bless You, and the best to you and yours. I take away so many wonderful memories, got to know so many wonderful people…who became my friends.
Lee Tyler, Owner/Operator (2003-2014)
Mangia! An Italian Restaurant