By ELIZABETH SCHAFFER
Mario’s in Niskayuna is back, and it is better than ever. Mario’s which began renovations late last year, has finally reopened, and from the crowds we have seen, it appears much of Niskayuna is happy they are back.
Mario’s has been a staple in Niskayuna for nearly 20 years, and for a variety of reason, they started from the ground up to create the new Mario’s. Located in the same location, the new building and layout is much friendlier and easier to access. Previously, if there was a wait (which there almost always was), the line backed up into the doorway, causing an uncomfortable crowd to form. In addition, the bar area was open to the dining room, but was also blocked easily by patrons waiting on a table. Making it nearly impossible to have a drink at the bar while waiting on your table.
In the new set-up, there is a benched area to wait for a table, and the bar is also separated from the main dining room by a half-wall, making it easier to just sit and relax at the bar while you wait for your table, or choose to have dinner at the bar.
The boyfriend and I went on Thursday night, we called ahead (they don’t take reservations) to get an idea on the wait and they said at that point it was about 30 minutes. I was close. I got there first. Put our name in and took a seat at the bar. Within minutes, I had an ice cold beer in my hand, and a menu to look over while I waited. The efficiency with the new layout was clearly working.
Previously the décor made you feel at home, but was dark and outdated. The new décor is simple, yet fitting. A rustic look, with exposed wood beams, and slate colored floors, it is fresh, but still has the homey feeling of the old Mario’s.
The wait was probably exactly 30 minutes, and the boyfriend arrived only seconds after I was seated at our table. I had not eaten much all day, and was in full on “starvation feed me now” mode. We placed an order for wings immediately, as well as each ordered a soda. One beer was enough for me, I had to be out of the house early the next morning. I already knew what I wanted, simple, but my absolute favorite meal in the world, eggplant parmigiana. He decided to go with a special for the night, bucatini pasta with a Bolognese sauce.
The wings arrived quickly, and each of our dinners came with salads and they arrived on the heels of the wings. Our server apologized that both came together, but we really didn’t mind at all. The wings, did not disappoint. We ordered them mild, because as you may know from reading this column, I am a bit of baby about spicy things – and for my taste, they were perfect. Enough zing to have flavor, but not so much that I couldn’t bear it. Now one of the things that I loved about the old Mario’s was their blue cheese dressing, and I was really hoping that had not changed. As I dunked my first wing in the blue cheese, I could tell right away, that it had not. Thick chunks of fresh blue cheese, and a perfectly creamy dressing, I was in heaven. The salads were typical side salads, and the dressing was just as delicious.
After we finished our salads, and had what we couldn’t finish of our wings wrapped, our server brought over bread and we relaxed for a bit. Our meals didn’t take too long, enough time to digest the wings a bit and prepare for the next course. As she approached with our meals, one thing was clear, the new Mario’s had not changed their serving sizes! My eggplant parmasean was in all honesty about the size of a football, and then there was the side of pasta. His bowl of pasta was massive, and also looked delicious. As I mentioned, eggplant parmasean is my favorite meal in the entire world, and there is nothing worse than eppplant parmasean that is all breading and no eggplant. In the past, Mario’s had always been perfect, lightly breaded, with plenty of actual eggplant and eggplant flavor. To my delight, nothing had changed. If anything, it was even better. The flavor was perfect, the texture just right, and more than enough cheese and sauce in between the layers. I was delighted.
Since the boyfriend’s dinner was a special for the night, he didn’t have much to compare it to, but he loved it. I loved it too, and had I not been so enthralled with my own dinner, I probably would have eaten more of his as well. His pasta was done just right, and the Bolognese was plentiful, and seasoned to perfection. There was also enough sauce to allow for him to use some of the bread for dipping, which is one of his favorite additions to a meal.
Neither of us were able to finish our dinners, but we brought the leftovers home, and as usual he ate them both the next day. Although the idea of dessert sounded wonderful, we knew the actual act of eating it would be nearly impossible. So, we decided to wait until next time for dessert.
So, if you have been waiting for Mario’s to re-open, wondering if it is still the same, or maybe have never been there, there is only one thing to do – get in your car, and get yourself there!