My search for the best pizza in New York continues….

Of all the pizza options along Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, Mario’s might be the most interesting. And not just because it was featured in the book The Godfather. When you step inside the restaurant you are immediately transported to another time and another place. And whether you are here for a casual solo lunch or a family reunion, the white tablecloths, dessert carts, and dramatic decor make you feel like this is a special occasion.

And nothing about this makes me think of pizza. It’s barely on the menu (hidden in the appetizer section) and the neighboring tables have overflowing plates of penne ala vodka or eggplant rollatini. Not a pizza in sight.

Thankfully I had done some research and I discovered not only did Mario’s first start as a pizzeria in 1919, but it is considered the best pizza in the neighborhood by some in-the-know circles.

You know me, I like to be in the know, so I came in one day to order the appetizer pizza. A large pie was also available I was informed, but this was actually my third meal of the day and I didn’t want to leave any over.

Nothing about the visuals of this mini-pizza struck me as impressive. Aside from a scattering of basil, if I had ordered a pizza at the roller skating rink in 1987, it very well could have looked identical to the one at Mario’s. It did not look like what I expect at a restaurant with white table cloths like this one.

But it was certainly much better than roller skating rink pizza (at least from my memory of the roller rink stuff). The crust was great – very crisp and with an impressive char. Just like a bowl of pasta, the waiter came over and topped my pie with parmesan which was a nice touch.

Perhaps the best part of the pie was the red sauce (Mario’s is definitely what you would call a red sauce joint). Bright and tangy with bits of pepper, it was a nice foil to the hot buttery cheese.

If anything, this meal proves that looks can be deceiving. I never would have guessed some of the best pizza in Arthur Avenue would be served at a fancy restaurant while looking like a cheap after school pie but tasting like the real deal. The Godfather himself would be proud.

Is Mario’s Restaurant the best pizza in NY? It looks much better than it looks and it gets an 8 out of 10 not just because it’s a surprising fun environment but also because it tastes really good.

MARIO’S RESTAURANT
2342 Arthur Avenue (between East 186th Street and Crescent Avenue),
Belmont, Bronx
(718) 584-118
mariosarthurave.com
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Category: Pizza

About the Author

Brian Hoffman is a classically trained actor who is now a full-time tour guide, blogger, and food obsessive. He leads food and drink tours around New York City, which not only introduce tour-goers to delicious food, but gives them a historical context. He also writes food articles for Gothamist and Midtown Lunch in addition to overseeing this blog and a few food video series, including Eat This, Locals Know, and Around the World in One City.

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