It has been a year since Damian Mandola and his team opened Mandola’s Italian Kitchen in Cedar Park. Mandola himself was skeptical about the location, but since opening, he said the restaurant has been a hit.
Mandola, who owns the casual, counter-service Italian restaurant, said the sales in Cedar Park are now rivaling those of the original Mandola’s location, which opened in 2006 in The Triangle mixed-use development in Austin. Unlike Mandola’s three other locations, the one in Cedar Park is the first to have a bar.
“We’ll have people come in, and they won’t wait in line,” Mandola said. “Even if the line is running fast … they’ll wait for [a]bar chair.”
His restaurants sell Italian cuisine, such as sandwiches with freshly made mozzarella and focaccia; pizzas; pastas; and an assortment of cakes, pastries and gelato. A Sicilian-American who grew up in Texas, Mandola knows Italian food—and he is no stranger to the restaurant world.
He and a friend opened Damian’s in Huntsville in 1975. Then after opening a few more restaurants in Houston, Mandola entered the national scene. He partnered with his nephew Johnny Carrabba to found Carrabba’s, which was acquired by Outback Steakhouse and now has around 240 locations.
In the early 2000s, Mandola and his wife, Trina Mandola, were looking to start something new. They moved to the Austin area after falling in love with a property in Driftwood. Mandola said his dream was to create a space that offered a restaurant, gelato, coffee and pastries all under one roof. The result was Mandola’s.
“The idea was to make it real colorful and fun with murals, posters, flags and family pictures,” Mandola said.
Mandola and his family still live in Driftwood, though they travel to Italy often since they have a house outside Florence, where they lived from 2016-18. Now settled back in the Texas, Mandola has his eyes set on expanding outside the Austin area. He said he is exploring properties in Houston, Round Rock and College Station.
“We’ve got some very talented people both in our office and in our restaurants,” Mandola said. “There’s opportunity, so why not?”
Mandola’s Italian Kitchen
12100 W. Parmer Lane, Ste. 200, Cedar Park
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-9 p.m.