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RIP Mangos, hello Piazza Italia: New Italian 'town square' coming to defunct Las Olas spot

After being sold twice and closed twice in the last two years, Mangos on Las Olas sleeps with the fishes. Coming soon to the prime Fort Lauderdale corner is a new Italian “town square” concept featuring a restaurant, cafe/bar and gelateria/pastry shop/market that aims to be open by December, new owner Frank Talerico says.

Its name: Piazza Italia.

That’s piazza, as in the bustling town squares that form the heart of Italian cities, not pizza. Talerico says construction of the multi-faceted eating and drinking establishment, at 904 E. Las Olas Blvd., is about 75 percent complete.

“It’s not a food hall,” says Talerico, who also owns Casa Calabria and the Ocean Manor Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale. “We are creating an authentic Italian experience that will immerse our guests in cuisines from different regions ... We want to make our guests feel like they are with family in Italy.”

The restaurant has been closed since June. A failed reboot, after a one-year renovation, lasted four months. The original Mangos was a 25-year fixture on Las Olas, a boozy and touristy spot with live music, burgers and mahi sandwiches. The founding ownership group headed by John Day sold it in January 2017. A new group headed by Italian restaurateur Bruno Vaccari reopened it in February as a glitzy, South Beach-style club and Italian restaurant. In June, Talerico bought controlling interest in the lease (which runs six more years) from Vaccari, who retains minority ownership.

“Mangos — at one time it was a nice spot, but it’s had its day,” Talerico says. “After two different owners and two closings we figure we’re better off starting over and going in a new direction.”

Talerico says Piazza Italia will feature a unifying central area between the rebuilt bar on one side and a row of 10 columns and arches on the other. He says the eatery will feature three distinct areas, each with a dedicated entrance from the street.

1. A 120-seat space that includes the front patio, bar and center area that will offer small plates, pastas, paninis and drinks that will have the feel of sitting in a central square in an Italian city. It will feature a DJ and bands, and will be open all day. The back wall will feature a 10-foot marble fountain that “looks like the fountain of Trevi,” Talerico says.

2. A 70-seat formal dining room with a separate, upscale menu. The room features a large, glass-blown chandelier, and it will likely not open for service until 5 p.m.

3. A rear market and takeout shop that will offer pastries, gelato, cured meats, coffee and dry goods for purchase. Talerico says the back area will not have seating, but there will be some outside tables in the rear lot in a newly created "vineyard" space that will have faux grass and grape vines.

mmayo@southflorida.com, 954-356-4508. Follow my food adventures on Instagram: @mikemayoeats. Sign up for my weekly dining newsletter at SouthFlorida.com/EatBeatMail. Join the discussion at Facebook.com/groups/LetsEatSouthFlorida.

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