Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mario's Pizza

My parents had a brief "fling" with Mario's pizza a few years back. I think there was something about a "giant party-sized pizza" and a "white chicken pizza" that they really liked. What do I remember about Mario's pizza? THICK CRUST! Bleh. I'm a thin-crust girl, through and through. Needless to say, the affair was short-lived, and my parents soon went back to Vinnie's of Middlebury for their weekly pizza night. If pizza night ain't broke, don't try and fix it, I always say.

Brandon resting after a very filling meal

So I was a little surprised when my friend Brandon invited me to Mario's to celebrate my return to Connecticut. "But I don't remember liking their pizza," I told him, and he said, "They have tons of other stuff besides pizza. Plus, I'll pay." Deal.

Mario's dining area


Considering that I had never realized that Mario's had an actual restaurant component, I was very impressed with their facilities. There are two sides, a deli side and a restaurant side. We went restaurant side because I was immediately drawn to a sign for a gorgonzola/roasted red pepper/polenta appetizer. Yum. I guess I'll have to leave the deli review for another day.

The dining area, pictured above, is rustic Italian style, and a cool feature that is not in the picture is that you can actually sit at the bar and watch the cooks making pizza. I would imagine children would love that. We arrived at the end of lunch hour, and Mario's appears to be quite the popular lunchtime destination. And of course it is! The food is incredible and unbelievably well-priced! Oops...I'm jumping ahead of myself.

My delicious entree, which I couldn't eat because I filled up on the appetizer. :(


I was so thankful that Brandon made me retry Mario's. I found the food to be exceptional but also simple and homey. It actually reminded me a lot of my Italian grandmother's cooking. Brandon was excited to introduce me to the appetizer mussels in fra diavolo sauce, since mussels is the appetizer we always order, and is the basis upon which we generally judge a restaurant. Until now, the reigning champ had been Vasi's mussels right next door (Vasi's also wins for fried calamari, martinis, and several other things, I'll post on it soon...). But I have to admit, Mario's mussels have taken the crown. They were perfectly cooked in a delicately spicy tomato broth, and came with plenty of fresh bread to soak up the juices. Which I did, possibly too much, since I could barely finish the rest of my meal. Just writing about those mussels makes me want to go back tonight.

Anyway, looking over the rest of the menu I was impressed by the sheer number of items they offered, and also the price. This might be the best value for down-home Italian food in the area. I ordered an entree, whose name I have since forgotten, that came with shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels and calamari in a fra diavolo sauce over linguini for under $13!! How do they even do that? And Brandon's clams and linguini was even less expensive. Bravo, Mario's, really.

Brandon's clams and linguini in white sauce

1. The fra diavolo sauce
2. The price!
3. The ambiance, at once completely casual and elegant

Yes, hopefully soon. I've been raving about it to Scott since I went, and he is dying to try!

Mario's Pizza and Deli
1650 Watertown Ave.
Waterbury, CT 06708
(203) 575-0485

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