Neighborhood Eats: A pasta lover's dream at Mandara Ristorante in New Jersey

WEST CALDWELL, New Jersey (WABC) -- In this edition of Neighborhood Eats, we're headed to New Jersey for a pasta lover's dream.

And don't be fooled by the fact that Mandara Ristorante is located in a strip mall. Owners Michael and Mena Mandara saw the location and the community of West Caldwell as an opportunity.

"It's a very family oriented destination and neighborhood," Mena said. "We just like the vibe of the neighborhood."

"We tried to bring something special, something they get to enjoy not only with their friends but also with their children," Michael added.

There is pizza -- with mass appeal -- but also an extensive menu with plenty of salads and sandwiches ideal for lunch and then heartier fare for dinner. There's also pasta across the board.

The namesake pasta, Pasta Mandara, melds some favorite flavors like tomatoes and sauce plus cream and Parmesan, spinach and sausage.

The pasta is mixed in, and it's topped with grilled chicken and fresh mozzarella.

"The food is fabulous," one customer said. "The first time I came here, we came as a family. We all started eating. We all looked up and said, 'This is really good.' We came four days in a row after that."

The Mandaras have two other restaurants, one in Wycoff and one in Nanuet, and while some might say they should consider retiring, they're not ready to hang up their aprons -- restaurants are in their blood.

"I've been doing this all my life," Michael said. "I started working with my dad when I was a young boy...Now I'm satisfied for the next few years."

Recipe for Pasta Mandara:

--1/4 stick Unsalted butter
--3 tsp Olive oil
--1 1/2 cup Marinara or tomato sauce
--1 Grilled chicken breast
--2 Crumbled cooked pork sausage
--1 cup Baby spinach (not cooked)
--2 cups Cooked pasta
--1/2 cup Diced tomatoes
--1 Shallot minced
--1/2 cup Heavy cream
--1/4 cup Grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
--2 tbs Fresh diced fresh mozzarella
--2 leaves Fresh basil, roughly cut

Preparation: Serves 2

1. In a medium frying pan over medium heat, add a unsalted butter and 2 Tablespoons of olive oil with a minced shallots

2. Sauté till the shallots are translucent (about 4 minutes)

3. Add cooked crumbled sausage and fresh diced tomatoes. Add marinara and heavy cream.

4. Mix together and sauté for about 2 minutes

5. Add 1 cup of fresh baby spinach, not cooked

6. Add cooked pasta

7. Cook for 2 minutes while mixing together.

8. Remove from heat and add about 2 tablespoon of grated Parmigiano Reggiano

9. Add 4-5 ounces of cooked sliced chicken breast

10. Top it off with 1/3 cup of diced fresh mozzarella cheese and a little chopped fresh basil

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