by Mardie Caldwell
Driving up to the little restaurant, we noticed this small eatery was packing them in. The parking lot was filled to capacity on a Monday night at 7:30 pm. Established 11 years ago by Ignazio and Janet Abbene, a hospitable husband and wife team, they and their children added to the true Italian family atmosphere that made us feel we were in Nona’s kitchen for a traditional Italian supper.
Mario’s features a nice all-you-can-eat salad bar, featuring time-honored Italian recipes. There are gourmet chicken dishes from Italy, homemade spicy meatballs, and rich homemade marinara sauces over fresh pasta. The savory Virginia clams in a shell were out of this world, and the hearty homemade soups, (of which we tried more than a few) warmed us clearly to our toes, not including the delicious specialty peppers and sausage dish we reveled in that was fantastic. And that was all before the Pizza! The Stromboli was large and handmade, as were the soft seasoned breadsticks and Calzone!
The extensive menu features an assortment of traditional Italian dishes the way they should be; from baked dishes, (Piatti Al Forno), to seafood dishes, (Piatti Di Mare), and of course traditional round New York style Pizza (Neapolitan). Their wines covered a variety of vintages and the dessert tray was to die for.
We were impressed with Tracy, our server. She was gracious and attentive at all times. The festive walls donned letters of glowing gratitude from nearby schools and organizations for Mario’s contribution to the youth of the city of Orange.
Mr. & Mrs. Abbene open their restaurant’s kitchen to local school-age children for demonstrations on the art of pizza making, helping them learn the creation of a great pizza. They also award a free pizza to each school-aged child that commits and succeeds at reading 15 books – making them unique in their dedication to the communities children’s literary needs. As you enter the restaurant, you will notice the many awards and glowing letters from leaders honoring the Restaurateurs from ceiling to floor.
Most locals agree Mario’s offers the best in town when it comes to Italian dishes and Pizza both in price and for their generous servings and quality products. Your dining experience is sure to make you feel at home bringing a smile to your face and satisfying any hearty appetite.
Mario’s is open 7 days a week from 11 am to 9 pm Sunday through Thursday and Friday and Saturday from 11 am to 10 pm. Mario’s is the only restaurant open late in the evening. For take-out or Pizza delivery call them at (540) 672-3344. Major credit cards accepted.
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Mardie Caldwell is a travel writer and connoisseur of a wide range of foods covering everything from Middle Eastern Cuisine to traditional American cooking.