February 23, 2014 Gemmayze & Mar Mikhael Beirut Lebanon Middle East

Mario e Mario: Homemade, the Italian Way

Phone Number: +961 1 444 036 - +961 76 888 036

Address: 39, Rue Patriarche Arida, Mar Michael, Achrafieh Beirut, Lebanon

Website: https://www.facebook.com/marioemariotrattoria

Price Range: 30-50 $


Welcoming: 4/5

Food Temperature: 8/10

Ambiance / Music: 5/10

Menu Choice: 4/5

Food Taste: 21/30

Architecture / Interior: 6/10

Food presentation: 8/10

Service: 7/10

Value for money: 6/10

There are two people in town that create a buzz whenever their names are involved- Mario Haddad Senior and Mario Haddad Junior. What are the father and son combo up to these days? I'll tell you. A new restaurant developed out of a common passion. In the heart of booming Mar Mikhael is an Italian restaurant called Mario e Mario. Hearing the news was music to my ears and flavor to my taste buds... I mean one can't but expect but a genius recipe for success from the giants behind Cinema Empire as well as culinary places including the likes of LE Sushi Bar
Mario Junior, owner of Le Sushi Bar and Falamanki has opened his latest culinary baby with the collaboration of his father, Mario Senior, owner of Cinema Empire and an Italian cuisine master.
"Mario e Mario has been a love project in the making for 30 years now. My earliest recollection of watching my father concocting passionately his delectable Italian dishes, dates back to when I was a little boy. It's been a dream of mine, ever since, to open one day a little restaurant, where our infatuation with traditional home cooked Italian food can be shared with loved ones. This is the place," expresses Mario Junior...
Good to know before we start:
  • Mario e Mario are both Mario Haddad Senior and Mario Haddad Junior, both of whom are Italian food aficionados
  • The menu is changed every day depending on the day's fresh catch
  • Chef Walter Benenati, with a rich baggage and experience in Italy, New York and London for the last 15 years, has a lot to offer
An Italian waiter who oozes out some positive vibes served us tonight. He played a big part in making the evening and dining experiences a memorable one.
Dinner started with bread, real pure and homemade Italian bread, served in a paper bag. Tasty, soft, tender and airy bread produced in house. Take a plate, pour some olive oil from Gino's Garden, add to that balsamic vinegar - also made in house by the chef- and start appreciating. This is pure torture for anyone on a diet! Awesome bread, exquisite balsamic vinegar and I was actually contemplating whether to continue eating those sumptuous bites, or leave some space for what's coming...Olive oil focaccia, onion bread, tomato bread, normal bread and brioche... I wish I could take some home with me.
FYI, Gino Haddad produces Gino’s Garden label, Mario's younger brother who's also in the business.

The place transports you to Italy:

  • Taking over the place where Restaurant Fiore was lately open, this individual house painted in yellow is catchy
  • Fun and fresh, all large windows are decorated with colorful flower pots
  • Take the few stairs to land in a cozy space where old -black and white- Lebanese tiles cover the floor
  • Look down not to bump into the wine boxes piled next to the door
  • One impressive chandelier pends from the ceiling - originally made of cutlery
  • The high ceiling is relaxing and simply painted in white
  • At the entrance, to the left is the bar where reservations are taken and drinks are served
  • Square or round, many tables, covered with neat table cloth fill in the space and surrounded with relaxing wood chairs, more like sofas
  • The tables are beautifully decorated with small white plates, tomatoes, fresh lemon, flower pots as well as Marlux salt and pepper mills
  • Walls are all painted in light yellow in a soothing dimmed ambiance
  • Two old-style chandeliers add the needed light to the corners
  • Look around, a couple light squares show the white light reflection of the kitchen behind the wall
  • The entrance wall is decorated with pictures of Mario Senior and Mario Junior
We were advised to order all plates in the middle as sharing is marker in here... and that's what we did.
Let's eat and have fun:
  • Creamy Burrata cheese with sundried tomatoes and almonds 25,000L.L: Even though its presentation is not too appetizing and the quality of bur rata is way too watery, I enjoyed the cheese married to the sun-dried tomatoes. Add to that a slight feel of crunchiness that is provided by the almonds ending every bite, in style
  • Arancini, Rice croquettes with tomato sauce 17,000L.L: Croquette? Nothing even crunched while eating. This huge ball of rice would have been better served smaller and warmer, cooked al dente and crunchier on the outside. The rice is a bit too soggy although the sauce is tasty and the seasoning is adequate. This is not something I'll order again
  • Pears Walnuts and Pecorino cheese salad with honey dressing 17,000L.L: Sweet and sour, crunchy and soft, fresh and juicy... I liked the ingredients strength and innovation of this salad. This was the queen of the night, a superb creation
  • Bresaola with Fresh mushrooms and Pecorino 23,000L.L: This is as good as it should be
  • Fresh Seafood Salad with Lemon Dressing 35,000L.L: I liked this one... I really liked it. In a large plate, a white mountain of seafood mixed with greenery is served. A mix tut's full of taste, embracing interesting textures and flavors. I recommend it. This is one of tonight's most refined plates. I loved the strong lemon feel
  • Classic Italian Clam Spaghetti 33,000L.L: A classic, mastered to perfection. The pasta cooking level is perfect and the plate's taste is exquisite. Bravo
  • Spring Garden Risotto with Saffron 28,000L.L: That's not one of tonight's biggest successes. A strong unpleasant crunchy feel from the vegetables and the selection of should have been made better. Asparagus? Fresh mushrooms? I would prefer some better more supreme selection. I didn't feel the saffron and the plate's presentation that's not too appetizing. This plate needs mastering
Until now, all was great... What comes below needs some fine tuning MarioeMario_Mario_Italian_Restaurant_Beirut41
  • Handmade Tagliatelle with Beef Bolognaise 27,000L.L: A plate that simply needed some salt and pepper. The meat ragout used is tasty but doesn't stick well to the pasta. One bite is rich, another fade... Some seasoning would have made it perfect to enjoy
  • Fresh Seafood Risotto 35,000L.L: Honestly, this dish was my least favorite tonight. It lacked flavor, passion and dedication. A creation that needed more tickling ingredients and definitely more salt and some ground pepper. The general look plays a big role in its success... it should be more appetizing
  • Charcoal Fresh Swordfish with rocket and cherry tomatoes 37,000L.L: Very well cooked, juicy and tasty, but needs a lot of olive oil. The seasoning was not right
  • Rosemary and Potato Ravioli with red wine braised lamb 33,000L.L: For me, and the 11 persons sharing tonight's dinner, the plate is a big No: I'm sorry to be blunt but the plate looked and felt like we were eating baby food.
Let's recap:
  • Mario e Mario is a restaurant that has a bright future ahead with some improvements that will happen in due time. Tavolina, Toto and Marinella, the three famous Italian restaurants in Lebanon worked so hard to reach what they are today. Their respective reviews were not as good as the second ones. Mario e Mario, this new baby in Mar Mikhael is as good as these three today. I'm confident that this restaurant can reach high if the staff organizes itself, the portions served get bigger and the seasoning gets mastered.
  • I expected much more from the food and I'm sure it can and will be better with time
  • It's not logical to have a complete new menu everyday. The cooks and waiters will get lost unless they are super trained. The idea of having a new printed menu everyday is perfect but it's a super idealistic thought that may be hard to achieve
  • A real Italian ambiance fills this place. There's fun and laughs but the loud music transforms the fun into torture. Music should be abolished
The things I loved and enjoyed:
  • Sohat glass water bottles are served here
  • San Pellegrino, my favorite sparkling water landed on the table as soon as we arrived
  • Serving tomatoes and lemon in the middle of the tables is fun. With a white plate in front of us we were driven to try them and not just look at them like they do at La Petite Maison
  • The plates are creative and innovative
  • The prices are reasonable
I'll change and improve:
  • A bottle of olive oil should be added to all the tables just like the tomatoes, lemon and flower pots ... Not served later on with bread
  • Please and I beg you to change or eliminate the music completely
  • Some of the serving plates are too big to fit the table sizes. It's better to use smaller plates
  • A sharing concept they say? Fine, so the portions should be much bigger...
  • NGNO's experience with the last 800 restaurants: If my phone can't take pictures, my eyes are then being tortured. More lights are a must, it's too dark in here
As we reached the dessert part, I received an emergency phone call and had to leave in a rush. But I heard that there was nothing too special about their dessert - So expect me to come back soon to try it myself very soon. I do recommend you try Mario e Mario. It is a special Italian restaurant indeed. Go and enjoy some special homemade bread, followed by some innovative culinary creations and much more - all in an original and cozy setting. If anything, I would come back just for the bread.  Good luck guys!





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