The Place: Mangia Italiano (3145 South Grand Boulevard; 314-664-8585)
The Hours: Happy Hour is offered Monday through Friday from 3 to 7 p.m.
The Deal: Half-off all appetizers on the menu except for scallops. $3 well cocktails. Additional daily specials follow: $3 margaritas on Mondays, $8 beer flights and $12 all-you-can-eat wings from 3 to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays, $3 Bloody Marys on Wednesdays, $3 local drafts on Thursdays and $5 on all wines by the glass on Fridays.
The Scene: In 2011, childhood friends and southside residents Collier Evans and Jim Bonsanti took over ownership of Mangia Italiano, carrying on the local tradition there that emphasizes a lively social atmosphere and signature fresh pasta since 1983. Diners can opt to grab a seat in the low-key primary dining room or can saddle up to the bar -- it is Happy Hour after all, so let's not pretend to be romantic when we're really just in it for some cheap eats. The main bar side of the restaurant offers additional real estate with a casual, colorful back-drop, vintage linoleum tables and all.
The Food: Half-price appetizer options include toasted ravioli, calamari fritti, bruschetta, polenta fries, crab cakes, gnocchi and honey-cayenne wings -- each for less than $5. The ravioli comes out warm with a golden crust, sprinkled with Parmesan and herbs. We tried each of the dipping sauce choices and would probably have a hard time choosing between the three: The arribiata is a bright, mildly spiced tomato sauce, while the olive-oil based pesto comes seasoned just right.
The aioli, on the other hand, also becomes a useful accoutrement for other dishes. We preferred it to the chipotle aioli that comes with the polenta fries, shamelessly double-dipping the light and pleasantly crisp cornmeal wedges in its garlicky counterpart instead to give it the savory flavor-boost it needed.
Did Mangia Italiano make the grade? Find out on the next page.
The Verdict: With an easy-going vibe and tasty, comforting appetizer options, Mangia Italiano's Happy Hour serves as a great time for snacking and drinking on a budget. The housemade Bloody Mary mix combined with spicy pepper-infused vodka knocked our socks off, a fitting potion to remedy a long work day. The same mix flavored the cream sauce in the gnocchi appetizer we ordered, a welcomed mildly sweet pairing to the traditionally heavy potato pasta.
Bonus: Bloody Mary fans can also get their fix outside of Happy Hour during Sunday brunch with a new Bloody Mary bar offered on Sundays until 3 p.m., featuring 70 accompaniments to choose from. Alternatively, consider trying a margarita during Monday Happy Hour instead, made with fresh-squeezed lime juice.
The Rating: On a scale of one to five...
We're always looking for some more happy hour meal deals. E-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.