Marco Mannino remembers doing just about everything at his father’s Chambersburg pizzeria growing up. He and his brothers, Maurizio and Francesco, were Mannino’s Pizza staples, their tasks ranging from mopping the floors and assembling pizza boxes to prepping food and making pizzas and other menu items.
Their parents, Giovanni and Maria, opened the pizzeria in 1972 and taught the brothers business—and life—lessons that they carried into adulthood when the trio opened Villa Mannino in Bordentown in August 2000. Their background in the restaurant business has been a factor every step of the way.
“We kind of grew up in the business,” Marco said. “We learned every aspect of the business, me and my brothers, and we just carried on the family tradition to that aspect.”
Mannino’s moved from Chambersburg into Route 33 in Hamilton. The family also opened a small pizzeria in Hightstown.
“Eventually, we made our way here, expanding as our family grew and as we stayed in the business,” Marco, 48, said. “We tried to find a larger location that would keep us together, working together. We’ve been able to kind of accomplish that here.”
Giovanni, 81, and Maria, 77, live in Sewell but spend a lot of time in the area visiting the restaurant and Marco, Maurizio, 44, and Francesco, 40. The values they taught their sons are exactly what Marco hopes Villa Mannino provides its customers: supplying a good, honest product at a fair price from a hardworking, humble staff.
The restaurant’s patrons seem to agree. Repeat customers are common, Marco said.
Villa Mannino, Marco said, is “a little more complicated than your traditional pizzeria.” In addition to the dining area, the business also boasts a banquet facility, a pizzeria and an off-premise catering service.
The banquet room opened in 2008 and was always a part of the brothers’ gameplan when they thought about what they wanted the establishment to look like in the future. They noticed different trends in terms of what their customers looked for in a restaurant.
“Different ways have changed as far as how people go out, how they entertain and what they do,” Marco said. “We started to see that there was a need, that people were looking for space to do parties. There were a lot of big venues for wedding, but there was a need for smaller parties—family reunions, anniversaries, bridal showers, baby showers, Christmas parties, graduations, communions.”
They saw a similar need in off-site catering, especially in homes and offices. This part of the business, Marco said, is all about “trying to fill the gaps.”
“It seems like a lot of companies are doing a lot of entertaining, a lot of meetings at their offices,” he said. “We’ve kind of tried to stay with the trends and what we’re seeing in order to keep ourselves busy. Being a small business, we can stay on the pulse of our business constantly and try to change with the times and how things are going.”
The size of the building and the brothers’ ability to lean on each other for support makes running what Marco said is really four separate businesses a little easier. Marco’s wife, Denise, and sons Giovanni, Marco Jr., Matteo and Luca can sometimes be found working at the restaurant, too.
“Obviously, we wouldn’t have stayed in it if we didn’t like it or appreciate it,” he said. “It’s something we grew up in, working with my dad and my mom, and just learning the business and being appreciative of what it takes to run a business. It’s a seven-days-a -week, 12, 13 hours, sometimes more depending on the time of the year, like now. There’s a lot of dedication. The business isn’t just part of your life. It’s part of your family. It’s been fun, but it is work.”
Marco said the restaurant’s menu has stayed “tried and true” over the years. He takes pride in Villa Mannino’s selection of traditional dishes like pastas, chickens, veals and eggplants. Recently, they’ve incorporated more salads, as well as gluten-free and vegetarian options.
Conventional pizza toppings like pepperoni are popular, but the restaurant also offers gourmet ingredients like sun dried tomatoes, chicken and broccoli rabe. Their specialty pizza, the Villa Mannino, comes with grilled chicken, fresh tomatoes, roasted peppers, artichoke hearts, garlic, plum tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella.
“We don’t try to reinvent the wheel,” he said. “We try to stay true to what we are.”
Marco added that they incorporate New York strip steaks, filets and sirloins into the nightly specials menu, as well as upgraded fish options that include salmon, red snapper and Chilean sea bass. They like to change the menu up for a customer who might be looking for something new, while keeping it stocked with old favorites for those who come back for something familiar.
Whoever the customer, Marco hopes the restaurant’s family atmosphere touches them in some way, whether it’s through a friendly hostess or a big plate of Italian comfort food.
“Families love to get togther,” he said. “I believe we’re a family business, and I think people still appreciate the small mom and pop family restaurant. I think they get that feel when they come in here, and I think our food speaks for itself. I think they’re getting good value at a good price. Those are the combinations that keep people coming back.”
Villa Mannino, 73 Route 130, Bordentown. Hours: Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday 3 p.m.-10 p.m. Phone: (609) 298-9000.