Eurasia exhibits

Calling your restaurant Eurasia takes in a whole lot of territory. For their eatery in St. Andrews Square, on the East Trail, though, Monique and Ettore Mancini focus on two distinctive cuisines, Italian and Vietnamese, and the result is a superb dining experience at surprisingly reasonable prices.

The two are natives of the countries whose food they feature, so the dishes are authentic. Ettore, or Eddy, comes from Italy, just south of Rome, and Monique, half-French and half-Vietnamese, is a native of Saigon.

“This is the best food in Naples,” Ray Fortune stated flatly. “Great food at a great price. We’re here three or four times a week. I own a bar and restaurant myself,” he adds, the Sand Bar, on Marco Island, so he knows the business.

One advantage to the mélange of cultures reflected on the menu at Eurasia is that there is truly something for everyone. Diners who want to stick with familiar Italian dishes or steaks can share a table with friends who favor the light, health-conscious Vietnamese food.

“I’ve had restaurants in Naples serving Italian food for 25 years,” said Ettore. “I’ve been married and eating my wife’s Vietnamese cooking for 24.”

Old time Naples residents still remember Mancini’s Garden, and many Marco Islanders know Ettore from his time as a chef on the island.

It was a desire to share this combination of food offerings that led to the concept for Eurasia. The Vietnamese offerings are increasingly popular, he said. “We’re now serving more Asian than European meals.” He attributes the trend to the growing desire for healthy eating.

A party of 10 ladies split their choices, with five ordering Vietnamese dishes, four opting for Italian and one, American (she went with the cheeseburger).

Return visitor Norma Stein loved the chicken parmigiana, and Susie Setser said her chicken stir-fry was, “Wonderful, with a nice tang in the sauce.”

Whichever continent you choose, Eurasia delivers deliciously. The summer roll appetizers, with steamed shrimp and pork loin, fresh mint and lettuce, encased in edible rice paper, taste so good that by rights, they shouldn’t be good for you, too. Served with a peanut fusion sauce, they come with an additional hot garlic and chili sauce that lets each diner adjust the seasoning and add just as much zing as they want.

On the Italian side, the eggplant a la vodka is served with such flair that the dish is too pretty to cut into – almost, with light, crisp layers of succulent eggplant steak, interspersed with tender spinach and finished with a plum tomato cream sauce, plus that dollop of vodka that complements, but does not overwhelm, the dish.

When a customer asked for veal a la vodka, the fact it does not appear on the menu is no problem. The Eurasia staff bends over backward to accommodate special requests and create a user-friendly dining experience. Each dish is made to order, said Ettore, so ingredients can be adjusted to suit individual preferences or diets.

Many of the Italian and Vietnamese items can be served as vegetarian entrees. The rice noodles used on the Asian side of the menu are gluten-free. Separate checks are no problem, and there is never a charge for sharing a meal.

“We realize people these days may be on a budget, or maybe just don’t want a big portion,” said Ettore.

The restaurant’s East Trail location was carefully chosen, both to hold costs down and attract a wide-ranging clientele. “We don’t have to deal with a $25,000 rent on Fifth Avenue,” Ettore said. “People spend two or three million to open a restaurant. We did a lot of the work ourselves, and we put the money into the food.”

The many golf communities that have sprung up nearby are good sources for customers, and Eurasia’s location is convenient for Marco Islanders, he added. “I hear all the time ‘I heard about you on the golf course.’ There was a need for nice restaurants on the east side of Naples.”

Another example of a delicacy often available, but not listed on the menu, is the stuffed portabello appetizer. Full of crab meat and melted mozzarella, it’s topped with a balsamic glaze and artfully presented on a bed of mixed greens with roasted peppers.

Mancini prepares it, he said, whenever he can find the perfect portabello mushrooms. Like all expert chefs, he stresses the importance of the freshest ingredients.

Eurasia’s dinner menu runs to seven pages and 104 items, even without the specials and many possible substitutions. The lunch menu simplifies things down to two pages, one side European and the other Asian, but does offer that all dinner entrees are available in lunch portions.

On the Asian side, the grilled lemon grass beef or chicken dishes, featuring your choice of bun, Vietnamese vermicelli or steamed or fried rice, are some of the most popular, said Monique, along with the pho, or soups.

Pho, the characteristic national dish of Vietnam, is a meal in itself, with rice noodles, thinly sliced brisket and top round, along with meatballs, in a beef and bone broth cooked for eight hours, green and white onions and cilantro, served with mung bean sprouts, lime and two kinds of hot peppers.

For the European palate, said Ettore, favorites include lasagna, parmigiana dishes, osso bucco – and steaks.

“I serve more filet mignon than a steakhouse,” he said. “We cut to order, wherever my knife falls.” The resulting 10-12-ounce filets are served with marchant de vin, au poivre or moutarde sauces, or as the house special, Filet Eurasia, topped with sautéed mushrooms, garlic, and onions.

The Mancinis have a third partner, Tom Marchese, whose domain is the bar. Eurasia offers a full bar, and Marchese specializes in exotic martinis. One favorite, the double espresso martini, contains Van Gogh espresso vodka, espresso coffee and crème de cacao. Or, you can order a tiramisu martini, with vanilla vodka, amaretto, Irish cream and espresso.

If you would rather have your dessert in solid than liquid form, homemade tiramisu and cakes are available, although, once again, not listed on the menu.

As the Mancinis’ many friends and fans have discovered, their restaurant is not about the menu, it is about pleasing the customer and delivering a memorable dining experience. Drop by for lunch or dinner, and you can see how well they have succeeded.

QUICK INFO:

Address: 8793 Tamiami Trail East,

in St. Andrews Square

Telephone: 352-0888

Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Monday through Friday; 4:30-10 p.m., Saturday

All major credit cards accepted

Prices: Reasonable by local standards – lunch specials as low as $5.50

Takeout and catering available

Special recommendations: Specialty martinis, summer rolls, roasted quail appetizer, steamed fish with ginger

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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