Esteemed Houston Restaurateur Vincent Mandola Has Passed Away

Beloved Houston restaurateur Vincent Mandola passed away Sunday, July 19 at the age of 77. Mandola was the owner of Nino’s, Vincent’s, Grappino di Nino and La Gelateria — a restaurant empire at 2817 W. Dallas that is easily accessible to Montrose, downtown and the Heights. In addition, he owned and operated the fast-casual Pronto Cucinino, which has locations on Montrose and Holcombe and is known for its rotisserie chicken and pasta.

Clint Sosa, the Director of Marketing and Events of Vincent Mandola Family Restaurants told Click 2 Houston that Mandola died from heart failure after battling COVID-19 in June.

Often seen personally greeting guests as he stopped by each table at his restaurants, Mandola was part of an esteemed family of Houston restaurateurs. His brother Tony Mandola co-owns Tony Mandola’s Gulf Coast Kitchen with his wife Phyllis Mandola, the daughter of “Mama” Ninfa Laurenzo. Nephew Johhny Carrabba co-founded Carrabba’s Italian Grill with Vincent’s brother Damian Mandola, who also opened Damain’s Cucina Italiana, which has been a downtown staple for over 35 years. There are also family connections to Rajin’ Cajun, Paulie’s and other Houston classics.

Mandola, the grandson of Italian immigrants from Sicily, and his wife Mary found the initial building for his group of restaurants in 1977. It was a two-story building, next to a divey ice house on West Dallas, that had once served as a store and dwelling place for Italian immigrants. There, Mandola, opened Nino’s, named for his father, in 1977. The more casual Vincent’s opened in 1984. Mandola eventually purchased the entire block. Over the years, his restaurants would feed thousands of classic Italian meals to Houston families, including my own.

The Mandola family history in the Houston area spans several generations. Vincent Mandola’s great-grandparents, Margherite and Sam Mandola, arrived in Dickinson, Texas in 1898, after passing through Ellis Island on July 6 of that year. Since then, members of the family have witnessed everything from the 1900 Galveston Hurricane to Hurricane Harvey and everything in between. Vincent’s family plans to continue nurturing those deep roots by keeping open the restaurants he and his wife founded.

It’s a sentiment Mandola, a consummate hospitality professional, would appreciate. A statement issued by the family says, “Vincent dedicated his life to his family and was a devoted husband and an amazing father, and papa. His restaurants were an extension of his home and he welcomed each guest with warmth and attentiveness like famiglia.”

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