by ASHLEY HUGHES
DRIFTWOOD — A Central Texas restaurateur is accused of burglarizing a building and later threatening to kill an employee of the Duchman Family Winery over the weekend.
Damian Mandola, 61, founder of Mandola’s Italian Market and co-founder of the national Carrabba’s restaurant chain, was arrested April 3 for the burglary. He was then arrested April 5 on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and criminal mischief according to Hays County Jail records. Mandola is currently out on $20,000 bail.
The Duchman Family Winery is adjacent to his restaurant, Trattoria Lisina, in Driftwood. Mandola was at one time co-owner of the winery — then called Mandola Estate Winery — with Stanley Duchman. The two reportedly had a falling out, leading to a split of the businesses and several lawsuits filed between the two.
Mandola was first arrested Thursday by Hays County sheriff’s deputies after he allegedly broke into the winery.
Deputies were called to the scene after Mandola was spotted recklessly driving his golf cart. A 911 call came in reporting the winery was in the process of being burglarized, according to the police affidavit.
The affidavit reports that Ashlyn Hoffman and Lisa Atiles, two employees inside the winery, told dispatchers they locked themselves inside an office while waiting for deputies to respond. It was after hours and the deputy arrived at 9:05 p.m.
In the police report, Deputy Jimmy Zuehike said, “Ms. Atiles advised that she was in her office when she observed Mr. Mandola drive up and park his golf cart between her office and the window next door. Ms. Atiles advised the front door was locked and she heard it being forced open.”
The report also said while Atiles was inside her office, she could hear items breaking and the sounds of something being dragged down the hallway. Atiles later saw a bottle of Duchman Canto Felice wine in Mandola’s golf cart.
According to the affidavit, Mandola admitted to forcing his way into the winery and taking the wine. It was a bottle worth about $18.
He was released Friday on a $5,000 bond.
Less than 48 hours later, he returned to the business and started vandalizing an SUV belonging to Jeffrey Ogle, the winery’s general manager. Ogle caught him in the act and confronted him, according to a second arrest affidavit from the sheriff’s office.
Ogle was investigating the damage done to the winery’s sign when he saw Mandola using a hammer to break the rear driver’s side window of Ogle’s vehicle. The affidavit states that Ogle tried to get a picture of Mandola on his cell phone and Mandola yelled, “I’ll kill you, you sack of s—.”
All four tires on Ogle’s car were slashed.
“Mr. Ogle explained he was in fear for his life and stated Damian had not been acting like himself,” the affidavit states. “Mr. Ogle explained he backed up and Damian got back into his cart and drove away, yelling that he was a ‘sack of s- – -’ and a ‘f—ing loser.’ ”
Hays County Deputy Sheriff Jimmy Zuehike arrived on the scene around 1:49 p.m. and sent Mandola back to jail. He was released after posting a $15,000 bond.Hays County records indicate Mandola has no prior criminal record.
ASHLEY HUGHES reports for the Hays Free Press where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Hays Free Press and the San Marcos Mercury.
COVER: Damian Mandola, owner of Trattoria Lisina in Driftwood, is accused of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and burglary. SUBMITTED PHOTO VIA HAYS FREE PRESS