After 18 years in business, many restaurants would simply rest on their laurels and keep things unchanged. Luckily for fans of excellent Italian cuisine, Mario’s is not one of those restaurants.
Opened in March of 1995, Mario’s has been a staple in Chicago for the last 18 years, offering diners the chance to enjoy authentic Italian fare in cozy and comfortable atmosphere, with a neighborhood feel that makes diners feel right at home. After such success, it came as a surprise to many that Mario decided it was time to make a few changes. He recently rolled out an updated menu and re-launched with a fresh new name: Mario’s Table.
If you are a devoted fan of Mario’s, don’t despair!
Much of what you have always loved about the restaurant remains unchanged. Most of the classic favorites remain such as a savory selection of stone-fired pizzas, veal, seafood, chicken and chargrilled options. The décor has remained similar, except for a beautiful rehab on the restrooms (very elegant) and newer fixtures here and there. The coziness remains, but the feeling is lighter and younger.
As for food, beyond those traditional menu items, Mario’s Table has responded to the growing trends in the food industry by offering newer and lighter options. Most of the appetizers and entrees are now available in two sizes – small and regular. The regular are the portion sizes you remember from 18 years of dining at Mario’s but the smaller portions are still plenty of food and make it easier for a single diner like me to experiment with a variety of options.
Setting itself apart from other traditional Italian restaurants, Mario’s Table now offers a lineup of lighter fare, too. He has eliminated all trans-fats from the menu and now offers diners the option of freely substituting gluten-free or whole-wheat pasta. The new menu even features an entire vegetarian section.
I started with Calamari Combo – half lightly fried and half char grilled. Although I am often prone to hyperbole, I can honestly say that the Char Grilled Calamari is the best I have ever tasted. I would return just to make a meal of that. The fried was also delectable, not too heavily breaded, and perfectly prepared to keep the calamari itself soft and not chewy. I ate about half of each, then had the rest packed for another meal.
I then opted for the smaller portion of the Lamb Chops Oregenato – marinated in lemon, garlic and herbs, served with risotto primavera and sautéed string beans. The smaller portion was three chops (the larger is five) and was more than enough for a satisfying entrée. In fact, since I knew I wanted to try a dessert, I ate two of the chops and about half of the sides and took the rest home.
With the two containers I took home (half the calamari and some of the lamb), I had enough for an entire second meal!
Finally, I ended this superb culinary evening with the homemade tiramisu. It was light, fluffy, creamy and just filling enough.
Mario’s Table is located at 21 West Goethe, on the corner of Goethe and Dearborn. They are open Monday – Saturday, 4:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. Closed Sundays and major holidays. They also offer delivery: Clark to the lake and Maple to North.