Here’s a wrap-up from Mandana Arjmand of the 5-Boro Pizza Tour’s Bronx leg. This was Mandy’s first pizza tour and I’m glad she came. As you can tell, she was particularly fond of Mario’s on Arthur Ave, which was the general consensus as the king of our Bronx tour. —Jeffrey Tastes
On Sunday, June 6th, the Bronx Pizza Tour visited four delicious restaurants, with the fourth, and best, Mario’s, being the best tasting experience of the tour.
The first two places we visited were neighborhood pizza stores, replete with formica booths and greasy Parmesan and red pepper shakers. We noticed that these pizza slices were saltier than most, but in general, were what you would expect on any cozy block in New York. Antonio’s and Mario’s were the only two “restaurants” in the tour, with Antonio’s being a modern and highly-air conditioned restaurant with thin-crust, crispy pizza that had sweet tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella sparsely topping the margherita pie.
By the time we got to Mario’s on Arthur Avenue in Bronx’s Little Italy (quaintly named the “safest neighborhood in America,”) I was pretty full. We were led to a table in the dusky room, lit with a low flourescent light reminiscent of 1970’s photographs, and walls glimmering with lacquered paintings hand-painted into the wainscoted walls. There was a tall, spiky chandelier in the “Chrystal Room,” where I imagined many a boisterous Italian celebration had taken place. Upon being seated, several waiters in bow-ties and vests handed us menus and the most delicious sesame-seed bread, freshly baked, and surprisingly quick to dissapear at our table. A small antique bar stands in the back of the restaurant, manned by a gentleman who wears a long folded white towel across his arm. Over the bar hangs a flickering lamp in the shape of a pocketwatch. A large man in a black tuxedo paces up and down the room, his heavy black eyes switching between guests. I finally feel as though I am somewhere different, though I’m not sure where. The Pizza is not on the menu, and the waiters are not pleased with our insistence on pizza for a meal when there are other more sophisticated (and expensive) choices available, but alas we massage the waiter by ordering a large sampler of appetizers in order to earn our keep. I am reminded of Rome where “pizze” comes in a thin-crust, lightly-cheesed variation sold at street vendors and sidewalk caffe’s in the afternoon much like bagels or croissants. There, it is not viewed as a meal unto itself but as a quick snack. Restaurants lay below sidewalks in walk-down grottos; meals are served in doses, starting with a ball of pasta resembling a rubber-band ball (yes, that tightly-wound) and end with a meat dish. At Mario’s, the fact that the pizza is not on the menu makes us want it even more, and I am eager to taste it. It is perfect. Just crisp enough to be holdable, bathed in olive oil, and salty, with a spicy sauce. And, I didn’t feel heavy after I ate it. The appetizer sampler we ordered was magnificent as well, with stuffed mushrooms, grilled asparagus rolled in prociutto and mozzarella, clams, and calamari.
Overall, Mario’s made the Bronx Pizza Tour a very transcendent experience for me! —Mandana Arjmand