Monday, June 6, 2022

Mario's Way: Rediscover the Enduring Classics at Mario's Restaurant

For over 51 years, one family's tradition has been part of the culinary mainstream with its homespun and elegant take on comforting Spanish cuisine going beyond being just a restaurant. It's the Mario's way, relived and experienced every day at Mario's Restaurant...

Comfortingly familiar and timeless, Mario's Restaurant remains one of the metro's enduring dining institutions since 1971. Today, Mario's Restaurant continues to weave memorable stories with each dish, firmly establishing its place in Manila's culinary scene. Step inside Mario's Restaurant and be transported back in time to rediscover Mario's Way with their house specialties prepared in that signature classic style...

It's a story that goes way back in 1971 when Mario and Nenuca Benitez opened their first restaurant on Baguio's famed Session Road recreating Spanish recipes handed down from one generation to another along with sumptuous steaks. Three years later, the couple established their first location in the big city with its Tomas Morato branch where it continues to serve their cherished family recipes. 

A hearty and memorable dining experience at Mario's Restaurant included their signature Caesar Salad prepared by your tableside. And to this day, remains one of the unique layers in the unique Mario's experience (for more on Mario's Restaurant, see my previous posts, A Weekend Brunch at Mario's from 2013, Why I Keep Coming back to Mario's from nine years back and A Peek at Mario's New Chef's Creations from 2015).

Through the years, we've seen culinary trends come and go. It's easy to be sidetracked and give in to fleeting fads in the competitive restaurant scene, but that clearly isn't the Mario's way. Mario's Restaurant values tradition, and it's what sets the beloved institution apart from the rest. Fil Benitez, son of Mario and Nenuca, continues the family legacy at Mario's Restaurant creating memorable new stories with the family's tradition of serving the very best from their kitchen. And it's a story with so many more chapters to offer in this new normal weaving its familiar style and touching our own personal stories.  

Every dining experience at Mario's Restaurant begins with their homemade pan de sal. A dab of butter adds a silky richness with each bite, opening up the palate for even more tasty bites...

Starters at Mario's...

Calamares, Gambas Con Chorizo and Oysters Rockefeller prepared the old school way. The Appetizers at Mario's Restaurant sets the tone for the rest of your dining experience, warming the palate with its bold and traditional flavors.  

The Salpicao (P 495) with fork-tender cubes of beef in olive oil, chili and garlic is one of the cherished family recipes of Nenuca Benitez that remains a popular bestseller at Mario's Restaurant. While the beef remains the star of the dish, the nutty notes of garlic completes the dish smoothened by the richness of olive oil and capped by a mild and soothing heat from the chili. The savory flavors are real, honest and robust while remaining simple, pure and uncomplicated. It's a recurring theme in the repertoire of dishes at Mario's Restaurant inspired by family recipes.

The Gambas Con Chorizo (P 455) combines the briny sweetness of plump and succulent shrimps with the bold flavors of Spanish chorizo rounded out by hints garlic and chili. The seemingly contrasting notes of the shrimps and chorizo pair well, delivering a seamless weave of savory notes with each bite.

The Calamares (P 400) brings textural contrasts with each bite followed by the delicately sweet notes of squid to complete a trifecta of traditional appetizers in the Mario's way. Served with a creamy dip, a generous dab drapes the palate with full-on flavors. And there's more...

It just doesn't get more classic than this. The Oysters Rockefeller (P 470) features baked oysters on a half shell with cheese laid on a bed of salt. A few drops of Tabasco brings even more flavors. Other must-try appetizers at Mario's Restaurant includes the Gambas Al Ajillo (P 440) and Setas Al Ajillo (P 190). 

Soup's On...

A satisfying bowl of soup before the main course is part of the Mario's experience, and the Sopa de Mariscos (P 299) with the day's freshest catch including mussels, clams and crab gently simmered in a dark and tart tomato-based broth made with fresh tomatoes and diced vegetables remains a popular and nostalgic option at Mario's Restaurant. And why not, the fresh seafood just adds a richness to the already rich broth for layer upon layer of flavors. 

A creamy chowder on a sourdough bread bowl just never gets old. The Clam Chowder (P 260) at Mario's Kitchen offers a thick and rich consistency loaded with shellfish for rich and fresh flavors. Diced vegetables add to the flavor and textural play of the classic soup. Once done with the soup, don't forget to enjoy tasty bites of the soup soaked sourdough to complete the experience. 

The Sopa de Ajo (P 198) is a light soup flavored with the deep and bold hints of nutty garlic, chicken and bread. A traditional winter soup in Valencia, Sopa de Ajo warms the palate with its soothing notes for another comforting option. Other choices include the French Onion Soup (P 230) and Lentejas Con Chorizo (P 260).

An Enduring Tradition

A special cart is then rolled in beside your table for one of Mario's Restaurant's traditional specialties, the Caesar's Salad (P 365). Prepared by your tableside, the Caesar Salad remains one of the iconic dishes at the revered dining institution taking you back to carefree summers of childhood. Old school, definitely. Yet it's this nostalgic vibe that never fails to warm both the palate and heart at Mario's Restaurant. 

A bit of theater and spectacle come together for a truly memorable dining experience as the tableside show culminates with the serving of hearty portions of the famous Caesar Salad...

...with crisp garden fresh Romaine lettuce evenly dressed in the silky smooth and rich dressing topped with bacon bits, croutons and Parmesan. It's often said time and again that freshness is flavor, and the Caesar Salad at Mario's Restaurant hits all the right notes both in richness and textures exactly the way you remember it. And that's why it remains one of the defining elements in the Mario's experience. That's the Mario's way. Other salad options at Mario's include the Crab & Mango Salad (P 398), Greek Village (P 365) and Pomelo Salad (P 395).

The Casa Specials

For the main course, Mario's Restaurant brings a wide array of savory dishes including another house specialty. The Lengua Con Setas (P 670) features melt-in-your-mouth and fork-tender beef tongue draped in a buttery mushroom gravy topped with mushrooms and served with mashed potatoes and vegetables. And the flavors are pure and uncluttered. The lavish savory richness of the dish is just one of many options reflecting the family's cherished Spanish recipes in its menu, and remains just as popular today as it was then. It's proof that tradition always trumps any culinary trend any day. 

The Plain Roast Turkey (P 550) with cranberry, gravy, mashed potatoes and vegetables is far from being plain, it's a satisfying dish with comforting flavors all the way down to the last bite. Contrasting flavors weave a seamless and comforting blend of familiar notes for a hearty meal. Other poultry specialties include the Pollo Iberico (P 450) and Chicken Parmesan (P 450). 

The Three Mushroom Pasta (P 420) leads the cast of pasta dishes with the deep, earthy and nutty hints of mushrooms and smoky pork bacon for a flavorful combo while the Seafood Linguine (P 385) becomes the obvious choice for a seafood-based pasta with loads of the day's freshest catch for fresh and clean flavors. The soft yet firm noodles coated with the flavorful buttery sauce and olive oil topped with fresh herbs teases the palate with its delicate and even nuanced notes. Other pasta dishes at Mario's Restaurant includes the Lasagna Pasticciate (P 450), Spaghetti Puttanesca (P 320) and Spaghetti Bolognese (P 400). 

Good food often evokes and trigger memories of a time and place and for me, it's always been the traditional Callos (P 650) of Mario's Restaurant. The thick and sticky sauce infused with the savory richness of soft beef tripe and chorizo delivers a flavorful burst with each bite. Simmered for hours, the rustic dish comes alive with its comforting flavors draping the palate with a nostalgic richness. Mop up the sauce with some bread, reminisce and relive the good times with every bite and spoonful.  

Steaks have always been part of the Mario's experience, and the Fillet Mignon (P 888) has been a bestseller since 1971. The thick and tender fillet wrapped in bacon is served with mashed potatoes, vegetables and gravy for a classic Mario's meal. Grilled to medium with a juicy pink center, the slab of beef is tender delivering rich beefy notes complemented by the mushroom gravy.

Steaks and Spanish dishes remain at the core of Mario's menu, along with its signature Caesar Salad prepared the Mario's Way. And the steaks at Mario's Restaurant still pack a punch, just the way you remember it. The wide selection of steaks at Mario's Restaurant includes the Peppered Steak (P 865), Ribeye (P 2,550), Porterhouse (P 2,080), Angus Prime Rib (P 2,900), Tenderloin Ala Pobre (P 865), Tenderloin Salpicado (P 835), Tenderloin Steak (P 815), Special Tenderloin (P 900) and T-Bone Steak (P 1,985).

Seafood? Mario's Restaurant has that covered too with Bacalao Ala Vizcaina (P 710), Bangus Ala Pobre (P 420), Charbroiled Blue Marlin (P 640), Chilean Seabass (P 2,550), Fillet of White Snapper with Mornay Sauce or Anchovy Mushroom Sauce (P 795), Grilled Prawns (P 975), Prawns Thermidor (P 1,300), Grilled or Boiled Salmon (P 750), Seafood Salpicado (P 580) and Steak & Prawn Thermidor (P 1,100) for a classic surf and turf combo. 

My personal pick at Mario's? It's the Corned Beef & Cabbage (P 650). Simply brined in the traditional manner, the tender slabs of brisket deliver bold beefy notes perfectly complemented by the subtle sweetness of the boiled cabbage for a another classic pairing at Mario's Restaurant. Hearty and rustic, a plate of Corned Beef & Cabbage remains an enduring throwback that still teases the palate even in this new normal. Only a few restaurants in the metro offer the traditional staple prepared the old-fashioned way, and Mario's is one of them. 

A dab of mustard and horseradish adds that contrasting sharpness to cut through the richness of the brined beef, mellowed by the mild and refreshing sweet hints of the boiled cabbage and vegetables. Classic, timeless, enduring, the Corned Beef & Cabbage at Mario's Restaurant is one of many reasons why I keep coming back. In one spot in the ever changing cityscape, time stops with everything you love and familiar served the way you like it. Old school still rules at Mario's. Other equally tempting house specials include the Pot Roast Beef (P 570), Hot Pot (P 540) and Salpicon De Mar Y Tierra (P 520).

Mario's Restaurant has always been about reconnecting and strengthening bonds with friends and family over a sumptuous meal, celebrating milestones or simply enjoying a sumptuous feast. To make your dining experience even more festive at Mario's, a selection of specialty Paella dishes is the perfect centerpiece for a memorable meal to remember. The Paella Valenciana (P 960 for 2-3/P 2,200 for 10) is an impressive dish loaded with chicken, pork, egg, chorizo, vegetables and succulent seafood on soft, moist and fluffy rice. 

Hints of saffron adds both color and flavors to the dish, enriched by its generous offerings of pork, chicken, chorizo, seafood and vegetables. Great for sharing, the Paella Valenciana is a mandatory dish for any celebration. Other paella options include the Paella Marinera (P 975 for 2-3/P 2,350 for 10) and the Paella Legumbre (P 715 for 2-3). 

Mario's also offers Party Packages and Catering for your celebrations, simply hit the links below for more details. But if you think Mario's pulled out all its tricks, there's more...

A Fiery Finish

Save room for dessert? Absolutely. A cart is brought to your table for another tableside performance, this time for the equally classic Mango Jubilee (P 500), a decadent dessert with sweet mangoes and rum. It's the fitting finale for a memorable feast prepared in the timeless Mario's way...

The brown sugar is caramelized on the pan before the fresh mangoes are added...

...and as the sweet components of the dessert simmer in the pan, a shot of various spirits including rum are poured...

...for a spectacular fiery tableside show. The fragrant and decadent aroma fills the room, tempting your palate once more. Anticipation builds for that first scoop and bite... 

The individual portions are then served over indulgently smooth vanilla ice cream. It just doesn't get better than this. Years on, the Mango Jubilee still rocks. 

Mario's Restaurant has seen the world change around them through each of those 51 years and counting. Health and safety protocols of the new normal are now part of the regular routine, but everything you love about Mario's remains just as you remember it for a reassuring reminder that Mario and Nenuca's culinary legacy lives on. And Fil Benitez intends to keep it that way.

In step with the times, Mario's Restaurant also offers sugar-free options like the Jello Sugar-Free (P 900 Whole/P 120 Slice) for a healthier spin on another childhood favorite. Other delectable treats at Mario's Restaurant include Sugar-Free Apple Pie, Carrot Cake, Chocolate Cake, Leche Flan, New York Cheesecake, Toffee Sansrival, Bread Pudding, Canonigo (my personal favorite), Double Chocolate Chip Cookies, Fudge Brownies and Coconut Macaroons

As the hectic pace of the city creeps back with its familiar level in a new normal, take the time to slow down or even stop for a few moments and savor the simple pleasures of a sumptuous meal prepared in the enduring and timeless style of Mario's Restaurant. And they'll be glad to welcome you back and transport you to good times and good food with their classic dishes...

Mario's Restaurant is located at 191 Tomas Morato, Quezon City or call +63917 132 6998, 8372 0360, 8376 6211 and 8372 0352 for inquiries and reservations. You can also visit their FB Page at for updates or visit their website at

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  1. I would just like to mention the Mario's Restaurant in Baguio city. It started there and the one running it is Mario Benitez, Jr. They moved to a new site #8 Loakan Svc rd, Baguio City. They have a great wine list and serves the same food. So do try it when you're in Baguio


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