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Daily Slice: Mario's, Arthur Avenue, The Bronx
Daily Slice gives a quick snapshot each weekday of a different slice or pie that the folks at the Serious Eats empire have enjoyed lately.
You all read the Pizza Obsessives interview with Sean Taylor, right? Each year in October (National Pizza Month), he eats at a different pizzeria each day (preferably one he's never been to) and with a guest or guests. Girl Slice and I joined him on the penultimate day of his pizza project.
Neither we nor Sean had been to Mario's on Arthur Avenue in The Bronx. We'd read good things. Our man Ed Levine described it in his book Pizza: A Slice of Heaven thusly:
It was a superior pie: crisp, slightly bready crust; terrific fennel-flecked sausage from a local butcher; fresh basil; a sprinkling of Parmigiano-Reggiano; and a simple tomato sauce not overburdened with unnecessary herbs and spices.
We found much the same thing, minus the sausage, and I would add that the crust is crisper and firmer than most NYC-style pizzas — there's no tip sag here. But that doesn't mean it's all crunch. There's some chewiness to this pizza.
As Ed also noted, Mario's is not a pizzeria. It's an old-school red-sauce fine-dining establishment and seems to discourage standalone pizza orders. In fact, you have to squint to find pizza on the menu, and even then it's listed as an appetizer. And that appetizer pizza ($7.25) is small — though you can also order a larger-size pie that's not on the menu (about 10 inches in diameter; $14). Sean ordered both. Pizza as appetizer and main course. I knew there was a reason I liked this guy.
I've had most of the pizza up and down Arthur Avenue, and Mario's is probably my favorite there. (And, yes, I've had Zero Otto Nove — I would have to revisit it before saying whether I prefer it to Mario's, and even then, it's apples to oranges.)
If you want to make a trip to Mario's for the pizza, make like Sean and bring a guest — the better to order some other things off the menu and the pizza. Though they're friendly enough that I don't think they'd kick you out in any case. ;)
2342 Arthur Avenue, The Bronx NY 10458 (184th/186th streets; map)