The People's Choice: Mancini's Al Fresco

  • Updated: August 17, 2014 - 1:00 AM

The restaurant that Nick Mancini and his father opened in 1948 in a former 3.2-beer joint grew into a large and popular St. Paul institution. Mancini’s Al Fresco, its State Fair counterpart, has become a popular institution, too, though it’s only a year old.

Pat Mancini, Nick’s son, who owns and operates Mancini’s with his brother, John, decided a 12-day fair gig would be a good business for late summer, when things get a little slower at the restaurant.

“I grew up going to the fair — there was some romance there, being a food vendor at the fair,” he said. “I have some children in their late 20s, and I was hoping to help establish something they could take into the future.”

Pat Mancini’s son Nick is the chef. His daughter and wife also work there. “We call it Mancini’s Family Affair,” he said.

Despite the “al fresco” in the name, the seating isn’t outdoors, but the interior’s sky-blue walls give it airy look. It serves more casual versions of the food at the restaurant: a steak sandwich, garlic toast, seasoned pork shanks, a bread cone with meat balls. And the staff works to provide the welcoming ambience that make the original Mancini’s so popular.

“It’s something my dad started,” Mancini said. “He was a firm believer that if your name is on the building, you’d better be there. You make sure your guests are comfortable, that they know who the owner is, that they feel a part of your place. It’s kind of our mission, customer-focused hospitality. Along with quality food and all of that.” □

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