Vincent Mandola passed away over the weekend on 07/19/20. His family reports that he was diagnosed with corona virus in March and died of heart failure on Sunday.
Vincent Mandola was the owner and proprietor of the Houston Mid-Town and Montrose area favorites Nino’s and Vincent’s, along with Grapino’s and fast casual dining concept Pronto Cocina. His extended family owns and runs other Houston favorites Carrabba’s and Tony Mandola’s.
I grew up going to Nino’s. Any time I went to work with my dad or happened to be downtown or were celebrating a special occasion, we would go to Nino’s. On even rarer occasions, we would go to Vincent’s. I think for some kids, going to the same restaurant that’s not Chuck E Cheese might get old. But even as a kid, I knew what good food was and looked forward to going to these great restaurants.
My dad started going to Nino’s in the 70s, probably shortly after it opened, and eventually got to know Vincent. Not to the point where they would hang out, but they were friends none the less. They were always happy to see each other when we’d walk in to the restaurant and extend warm greetings to each other.
Through my dad, I was able to meet Vincent on several occasions. We got to the point where we recognized each other by face and greeted each other by name. I was looking at pictures on the internet and realized that he looked the same the last few years as he did when I first met him when I was 5 years old.
It’s easy to overlook how much influence Vincent Mandola and his extended family had not only on the Houston restaurant scene, but also the Austin area restaurant scene. I hope both cities can continue on in their Italian culinary traditions even with the loss of such a great man.