Posted on 17 November 2011.
The legendary Mario's Restaurant served its regular fare for restaurant week (LINDSAY MINERVA/The Bronx Ink)
Holy cannoli. No special prices at Mario’s for the Bronx’s first annual restaurant week?
Instead, customers looking for a deal at the iconic Arthur Avenue restaurant were offered a free glass of Montepulciano red wine and a complimentary crash course in all things Italy. Ionic columns and brick arches frame the dining room overflowing with Roman sculptures, portraits of Tuscany, Italian flags, and endless family photos.
Owner Joseph Migliucci said he could not offer a special prix fixe menu because his family-owned business in Belmont already offers the best food on Arthur Avenue at a great price as it is. “Being here 92 years, we feel we’re the best restaurant on Arthur Avenue,” said Migliucci, 73, who has been working at the restaurant named after his father since he was 13 years old.
Mario’s was one of 40 restaurants chosen to participate in “Savor the Bronx,” an event that offered customers a chance to explore the borough’s culinary diversity at a discount from Nov. 1 to Nov. 13. Migliucci believed the promotional two weeks did not bring in any more customers this year.
What started as a pizza parlor with six tables in 1919 now seats more than 100 in what is now one of the most famous Italian restaurants in the city’s “Real Little Italy.” Migliucci’s father Mario, his uncle Clemente, and great grandmother Scolastia–all originally from Naples–opened the restaurant after they moved to the United States.
The cheesy penne-rigate sorrentina made with southern Italian sauce went for $13.50e with southern Italian sauces. The pasta was hidden beneath a layer of baked mozzarella. Ricotta cheese oozed out of the thick tomato sauce.
Another popular southern Italian dish is the stuffed eggplant for $9, also known as eggplant rollatini. Slightly under-cooked, it hid bits of beef and sausage not mentioned on the menu.
For these heavier dishes, the pleasantly crispy sesame bread with olive oil and butter soaked up the savory tomato sauce. It’s worth a trip to Adieo, where the bread is made everyday, just two stores down.
The clams oreganate at $9 for 5 were seasoned with oregano and baked with bread crumbs are somewhat lighter. The fresh clams–bought from the Cosenza’s fish market across the street–were served with squeezed lemon on top.
“Restaurant Week did not really help us, but it was the first year,” said Migliucci. “Maybe next year it will catch on.”