You may have heard of Damian Mandola. He and his nephew Johnny Carrabba have had cooking shows on PBS. The Mandola family are prominent restaurant operators, and the Carrabba’s chain was founded by Johnny and Damian. Damian also has a local chain, “Mandola’s Italian Market”, that I kind of like, and a higher-end Italian place in Driftwood closer to the Salt Lick, Trattoria Lisina.
Damian Mandola is also at the center of one of the more interesting local crime stories I’ve seen in a while.
The story starts on Thursday. Local law enforcement responded to a report of someone driving a golf cart erratically in the area of Trattoria Lisina. This led to Damian being taken into custody and charged with burglary; specifically, he is alleged to have broken into a building at the Dutchman Family Winery (which is next to Lisina but not owned by Damian) and stolen some wine. Other reports I’ve seen put the amount stolen at one or two bottles, which is odd; if he just wanted a couple of bottles of wine, surely Lisina would have that on hand?
So this is already odd enough. But I was talking about the story with my mother this morning, went to look up the press reports, and…
Damian Mandola was arrested again last night, after putting up bail on the burglary charge. This time, the charges are assault with a deadly weapon and “criminal mischief”.
There’s not a whole lot of detail so far about the sequence of events, and I haven’t seen any reporting except for brief stories in the Statesman and HouChron. It is worth repeating that these are just charges, and Mr. Mandola deserves the presumption of innocence. On the other hand, I doubt the Hays County Sheriff’s Office goes around picking up prominent business owners for no reason. And an ADW charge implies both that there was an assault, and the assault victim could identify their attacker (or that there was other physical evidence tying someone to the attack).
This is a darn shame. I really do like Damian’s ventures other than Carrabba’s. (I also like Carrabba’s, but I don’t think he or anyone else from the family is involved in managing it any longer.)
It is sad and odd and I hope it gets straightened out for the better.