When I was a kid, Mario's was the site of a long, not-so-fun family meal in which the litany of relatives sick or dead was the centerpiece of conversation. I remember paintings of Mount Vesuvius and framed photographs of Mario Cuomo everywhere and I remember that a very kind man told my mother that the next time we came in, we really ought to try the pizza.
I held that memory until I was 38-years old, finally returning to Mario's for the pizza. The same man, Joe Migliucci, son of Mario Migliucci for whom the restaurant was named, was there to make it for me. Without a doubt, he makes the best pizza in the Bronx's Little Italy. Some consider him the Dom DeMarco of the Bronx.
Vera Mario's Pizzeria was first opened by Neapolitan immigrants Socolastia and her son Giusseppe Migliucci who also ran the first Italian restaurant in Egypt. When they came to New York, they opened Mario's Pizzeria, named for Giuseppe's son. After the Arthur Avenue Retail Market was built, Mario's remodeled and became a fine dining restaurant. Just inside the front door are framed photos and menus from the 1940s when it became a quintessential Italian-American restaurant.
When Mario Puzo wrote the scene in his crime novel "The Godfather" where Michael Corleone kills Solazzo and Captain McCluskey, he set it at Mario's. When Francis Ford Coppola was adapting Puzo's novel for the infamous movie, he approached Mario Migliucci about filming there. Mario refused the offer saying that he wanted his restaurant to be known for its food, not a murder scene. When Mario passed away in 1998, he said that in spite of movie's fame, he had no regrets.
After 98-years in business, the food at Mario's, especially the pizza, continues to speak for itself.