Nothing quite says summer more than topping off a hazy afternoon spent at the beach with some cold drinks, a cheesy, crispy pizza and some tunes by Jimmy Buffett. Mango's Wood-Fired Pizza Co., located in the tourist destination of Olde Mistick Village in Mystic, looks like a Caribbean cabana bar. Neon signs for LandShark and Longboard Island beer and the strong scent of garlic, tomatoes, cheese and wood-fired pizza greet you at the door.
Friends and I sat on a deck outside with about six picnic tables that are great for a nice sunny day. Jimmy Buffett's Radio Margaritaville on Sirius Satellite Radio kept us entertained. Birch beer and cream soda from Foxon Park, a soft drink beverage company located in East Haven that uses cane sugar, kept us cool. And the promise of authentic wood-fired pizza kept us eager.
THE VIBE: Mango's offers a fun, casual, family atmosphere. The giant wood-fired pizza oven greets you at the door. The young man making the pizzas told us that the oven is kept around 800 degrees and the pies cook for about six minutes. The walls are all brightly painted in island hues, and there are surf boards, buoys and vintageCoca-Cola ads hanging from them. The wooden floors and tables and the pirate-themed decor give the pizzeria a "ship-wrecked" feel.
THE FOOD: Our keen anticipation of Mango's promise of only the best freshest ingredients certainly paid off. All of the food we ordered came out fast, at the expected temperature and looking and smelling intoxicating. We started with a tomato and fresh mozzarella salad made with heirloom tomatoes, basil and extra virgin olive oil. The tomatoes were crisp and the mozzarella practically melted in our mouths. We also tried the "Da Love Salad" made with iceberg lettuce, provolone, salami and tomatoes. The menu warns that this salad is garlicky and it isn't kidding. Our server explained that fresh pureed garlic and a homemade Italian dressing are what give the salad its very strong flavor.
Choosing a pizza was not an easy decision. Mango's offers over a dozen specialty pies, most with pirate-themed names, and all of them sounded delicious. The hand-tossed pizzas are made with fresh mozzarella and Romano cheese, plum tomatoes, sea salt and extra virgin olive oil. They offer a good mix of meat and vegetable oriented pizzas, and about 20 different toppings are available. We ordered a large "Cracked Tomato" pie. The chewy, flavorful thin crust showed signs of its wood-fired char on my finger tips, and held up against the generous amounts of sauce and cheese. The perfectly-seasoned and piping hot thin red sauce didn't favor one spice over the other.
THE BILL: Luckily, Mango's location in a tourist trap hasn't convinced its owners to inflate their prices. The starters and salads are between $5 and $10, and the portion sizes are generous. A small 12-inch pizza starts at $9.95 and a large 16-inch at $14.95. Meats and veggies can be added for $1 to $3. The specialty pies are all between $10.50 and $18.95. A reasonably priced beer and wine menu is available.
THE PARTICULARS: Open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. No reservations. Credit cards are accepted. Dine-in or take-out.
THE VERDICT: Mango's Wood-Fired Pizza Co. offers yummy, authentic New Haven-style pizza.