Mambo Italiano makes focaccia rolls, specialties

2 minutes reading


The next time you’re hungry and in Colts Neck, head to The Orchards Plaza.

The strip mall at routes 34 and 537 has bagels, coffee, pizza, Spanish cuisine, Mexican food, ice cream — and as of a few months ago, an Italian sandwich shop and cafe called Mambo Italiano.

Owner Anthony Bruno, 55, is a Brooklyn native who has worked in the restaurant industry for nearly 30 years. When he moved to New Jersey several years ago, he found he missed the food he was used to.

“We’re spoiled,” he said of his former home. ‘You have everything fifteen minutes away. You knew which bakery opened at six o’clock and had the best bread. I never bought deli meats at the supermarket. You had the deli.”

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Bruno – who got his start in the pizza business and has owned restaurants serving Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, as well as lounges and nightclubs – and business partner Stefany Amedrano, 29, have converted a shuttered Subway into their Italian sandwich shop.

Mambo Italiano, which opened in December, also stocks pasta, sauces and Italian soft drinks; brews Lavazza coffee; and sells pastries from New York.

The menu includes sandwiches made with imported meats and house-roasted turkey and beef on fluffy focaccia. There are nearly a dozen signature sandwiches, including the Stallone, piled with warm and sweet soppressata, cherry tomatoes, burrata, pepperoncini and basil pesto spread; the Dean Martin, with imported prosciutto, burrata, arugula, tomatoes and Italian fig spread; and the Devito, with Italian tuna, black olives, arugula, red onion, tomato and mayonnaise ($15 to $25).

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“Our signature bread is focaccia, and all the bread is baked here,” says Amedrano, adding that customers can purchase the focaccia as well as semolina and baguettes, and gluten-free bread is available.

A few menu items on the menu are Sicilian, a tribute to Bruno’s family’s roots in Palermo and the years he lived there as a child. These dishes include rice balls and fried chickpea fritters called panelle, which are spread with ricotta ($5 to $15).

Bruno and Amedrano also make chicken cutlets, fried and grilled eggplant, sausage and peppers, and meatballs — all of which can be stuffed into sandwiches or bought by the pound.

“It’s all made in small batches and is fresh,” says Amedrano.

“From A to Z you get a product that is fresh, from head to toe,” says Bruno.

Sarah Griesemer joined the USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey in 2003 and has been writing about food since 2014. Send restaurant tips to [email protected], follow on Instagram at Jersey Shore Eats and subscribe to our Jersey Shore Eats newsletter.