“A culinary entertainment complex.” That’s the phrase Beth and Dean DiGiacinto use to express all that The Mansion has to offer.
Part restaurant serving gourmet meals in multiple dining areas; part social gathering spot to drink and mingle with friends; part Italian deli serving sliced-to-order meats and cheeses; part scrumptious bakery; and part wine, beer and spirits cellars – the newly renovated establishment is nothing like this area has ever seen before.
While a project like this may seem like an overwhelming undertaking for a young couple, the DiGiacintos are actually no strangers to an entrepreneurial endeavor such as this.
In 1996, the DiGiacintos, who met in Cincinnati, renovated two circa 1860s buildings in the historic district of Covington, Kentucky to house their first successful fine-dining restaurant with an Italian deli, bakery and market attached. After nearly six years in business, the couple sold the establishment in 2002, and moved to the Space Coast the following year.
A few years ago, Beth and Dean began searching the Melbourne area for a place to open a unique restaurant and bar. At the suggestion of a friend, they toured the site of the former Strawberry Mansion and immediately became enthralled in the history of the property’s charming three-story Victorian home.
“In Melbourne, there is not an abundance of Queen Anne Victorian homes from the early 1900s, so preserving the few that are here is important,” says Dean. “It’s such a landmark in this community.”
In February 2010, the DiGiacintos purchased the property from Bob Brown, the former owner of Strawberry Mansion. While it was important for the DiGiacintos to uphold the integrity of the adored restaurant where so many special occasions took place in its 30-year history, the new owners were ready to infuse their own vision into the space.
And vision they had in spades. After nearly two years of renovations, in January the DiGiacintos officially opened The Mansion featuring six distinct dining areas including a rooftop terrace, cozy tavern and romantic garden, among others.
“(The Mansion) is a place where people can come relax, dine, drink and enjoy Florida,” says Beth. “We offer simple, made-from-scratch foods and great service in a casual atmosphere.”
“Our menu is not overly extensive or complex. We keep it straightforward,” adds Dean. He explains that all foods – from The Mansion’s breads and desserts to its hand-cut filets, fish, hand-formed burgers, brined pork chops and more – are made on premises.
The menu’s creations are accredited to Chef Lon Froneberger who has been a chef at numerous restaurants around the country. Items include fresh salads, such as the Sesame Citrus Tuna Salad and Tortilla Chicken Salad. More substantial entrées include options like the Double-Thick Bone-In Pork Chop which is served with andouille cheddar mashed potatoes and lemon-pepper green beans. The Mansion also boasts a gourmet burger menu, including a Gorgonzola Bacon Burger and a Roadhouse Burger which is topped with barbecue, cheddar, bacon and caramelized onions.
The first level of The Mansion is home to an Italian deli and bakery offering imported and domestic sandwich meats and cheeses that are sliced to order and built on a choice of breads made daily by baker Rolf Schroeder.
Meanwhile, the cellars, The Mansion’s beer, wine and spirits shopping and sampling space, offers an inventory of smaller-batch products that are hard to find and reasonably priced. Its second floor divides domestic and imported wines into two rooms, and an educated team led by the cellars’ manager, John Michalak, can help patrons make selections based on their favorite flavors. Coming soon, The Mansion will open its reserve room featuring wines priced at over $100, as well as a special sake selection.
The DiGiacintos say they try to add a special touch to all The Mansion’s offerings. Says Beth, “We’re constantly adapting and improving every day.”
The Mansion offers plenty of dining options including …
- The Tavern: An indoor seating area with 60 beers on tap
- The Garden: An al fresco romantic dining area, cool and breezy with lush landscaping
- The Terrace: A 4,000 square-foot deck overlooking the Indian River Lagoon with a large, rectangular bar
- The Beer Garden: A seating space replete with oversized Bavarian-style picnic tables
- Lower Pavilion: A covered area perfect for large parties
- To-Go Deli Seating: An area featuring views of the water that can be enjoyed while eating a deli sandwich
Address: 1218 E. New Haven Avenue, Melbourne
Phone: (321) 345-5800
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
Features: Multiple indoor and outdoor dining areas; Italian deli and bakery; tavern; 60 beers on tap; wine, beer and spirits cellars
A TREASURED SPACE COAST LANDMARK
What is today known as The Mansion has a rich history in Brevard County dating back to 1905. That’s the year John and Nannie Lee, who lived in Illinois and New York before settling in Melbourne, began construction of the three-story Victorian home. Originally built to serve as a winter getaway for the couple, the home quickly turned into the Lee’s full-time abode where Nannie would host ice cream socials among other community-based activities.
To the west of John and Nannie lived Claude Beaujean, a carpenter and boat builder who helped turn the Lee’s home into a Queen Anne treasure by adding gingerbread trim among other architectural elements. The Beaujean family operated Atlantic Ferry, a service-based business that transported passengers five times a day across the Indian River Lagoon to the beaches.
In 1929, Nannie passed away and the home fell to the care of her adopted daughter, Lily Tidwell. Lily, along with her husband and children, lived there until Lily’s death.
In 1975, the home was purchased by Bob Brown who spent six years renovating it into a restaurant he called Strawberry Mansion. Painted pink, the restaurant quickly became a beloved gathering spot among locals and enjoyed a long run as a fine-dining and social destination before officially closing in 2006.
After sitting vacant for about four years, Beth and Dean DiGiacinto purchased the property in February 2010. After two years of renovations, the DiGiacintos opened The Mansion, a “culinary entertainment complex,” boasting multiple casual dining areas, an Italian deli and bakery and wine, beer and spirits cellars.