Mario's is definitely the most famous of all restaurants in the Belmont/Arthur Avenue neighborhood as it is in the sixth generation of being run by the founding owners, the Migliucci Family. While the restaurant is famous for its cuisine, it is also known as part of history and legend. In the novel The Godfather, author Mario Puzo mentioned Mario's by name and location. However, when it came time for Francis Ford Coppola to shoot the movie version a couple of years later, he wanted to again use the name Mario's and actually film the scene there; however, the father of the current owner politely declined because he did not want his restaurant to be known mainly as the scene of a famous "mob hit" and preferred it continue to be known for its unique cuisine.
I was introduced to Mario's early in my Fordham career because the parents of an older Fordham student in my town told my parents that "Mario's is the mecca of the Arthur Avenue community". I still make it a point to dine there a couple of times per year when I am in the Bronx or Manhattan.
In the last year, I have clipped two newspaper articles. One "five-star" review in the Daily News described the establishment as: "It's the kind of place where the eggplant parmigiana special is considered a side, waiters wear tuxedos, and luck seems stuck in the 1970's - and it all works beautifully. The house marinara is a revelation." Another article tells how residents of Little Italy in the Bronx went wild when scenes for the new season of "The Sopranos" were filmed in the restaurant. It goes on to say that owner Joe Migliucci was so proud to have them work at his restaurant that he came in on his day off and personally cooked lunch for all of the cast and crew. But, Migliucci added, "All our guests are celebrities to us."
Famous for its Neapolitan dishes, Mario's is quite reasonably priced for all the fanfare that goes along with its reputation. Most entrees are between $12 - $18, but there are many unique items on the menu that run higher. People come from all over the New York City metropolitan area to dine at Mario's. In recent years, Mario's has been rated by Zagat as having the second-best pizza in all of New York City. A quick look at the Mario's website reveals a most extensive menu. Mario's does catering, and their upstairs banquet room is a common location for the rehearsal dinners for people being married in the University church.
The dining room is most elegant, yet evokes sort of a feeling of the past. It is not unusual at all for the owner, Joe Migliucci, or one of his family members to personally engage the customers in conversation; then the customers will likely be remembered by name on a future visit. One of Migliucci's sons graduated from Fordham in 1987.
Major credit cards accepted, while reservations are recommended on the weekends. Valet parking is available, but parents park on campus anyway. It is an easy walk from the campus. It is open for lunch at 12:00 and closed on Mondays.
Please note that Mario's recently instituted a new lunch menu with extremely reasonable prices, which continue to this day.
In 2012, Mario's received a lot of attention in both the national and international media. First, for the 40th anniversary of the release of The Godfather on March 15, 2012, the restaurant was in the news for refusing Francis Ford Coppola's request to film the famous shooting scene there. Here are links to a segment on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, as well as a segment on the CBS Radio Network:
NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams
CBS Radio Network
This scenario had been previously mentioned in the "Gatecrasher" gossip column in the New York Daily News:
New York Daily News
Also, the Bronx Times, a weekly newspaper, covered the Godfather connection:
The following month, in April 2012, Mario's Restaurant again received media coverage all over the world on the occasion of the 102nd birthday of their parking lot attendant, Joe Binder, who still works five days per week. The New York Post did an article on the occasion, which was picked up by the news wire services and appeared all over the country and all over the world:
New York Post
Two years previously, in 2010, the New York Times did an article for Joe Binder's 100th birthday. Here is a link to the article, which also includes a colorful video:
New York Times