For most local restaurants in the Philippines, surviving 10 years in the business can already be considered an amazing achievement, which gives Mario’s restaurant all the reason to celebrate for lasting an astounding 40 years in the industry.
Mario’s: A History
Mario Benitez’ great passion for customer service married well with Nenuca’s perfect execution of her family’s long tradition of Spanish cuisine, which, together, gave birth to the establishment of the very first Mario’s Restaurant in 1971 along Session Road in Baguio.
Former location of the original Mario’s restaurant, where a branch of KFC now stands.
After the original venue got burned down, Mario’s transferred to a more open and spacious location.
It didn’t take long until the restaurant received great reviews from both locals and vacationers alike, some even encouraging the couple to branch out in the big city of Manila. Finally in 1974, the Benitez Family, confident that their fusion of Filipino and Spanish cuisine will have a special place in the hearts of the Manileños, opened the doors of their second branch situated along the bustling streets of Tomas Morato, Quezon City.
The façade of Mario’s in Tomas Morato, Quezon City.
Now 37 years on, their Tomas Morato Branch has become a household name and has been the locale for countless unforgettable memories from simple birthday parties, to wedding celebrations, and even to grand corporate events.
Mario and Nenuca Benitez may have stepped down from directly managing the business themselves and have let their children take over, but according to Chef Anton, their mother, Nenuca, is still the boss and has the final say on big decisions regarding the restaurant.
What’s New with Mario’s?
As a response to the changing trends and demands of the market, Mario’s has decided to upgrade a few things in their restaurant to lure in more customers, most especially the “yuppies” or young professionals.
The people at Mario’s decided to change the logo for a more modern appeal. They removed the rectangular and circular borders, but kept the pine tree which is their ingenious way of saying that the first Mario’s Restaurant was established in Baguio.
And the addition of the tagline, “Experience our way,” is short for this:
Marios’s has gone beyond being just a restaurant. It has become an experience, touching people’s lives and helping create their memorable moments. It all started from the idea that a restaurant’s first duty is to serve the best from its kitchen. And from the meticulous care and passion of the Benitezes that every dish must be perfect. Because it is the Mario’s way..
-from Mario’s website http://www.marios.com.ph/history.php
Mario’s new logo
Small changes were made in Mario’s Tomas Morato branch like adding a few windows to let in more natural light and to give people a view of the restaurant’s beautiful garden outside. Numerous light fixtures were also placed to create a more cozy and inviting space for the diners.
Main Dining Room
Mario’s Session Road branch made use of Baguio’s naturally cool weather by creating a more open and airy space, which makes the fireplace an interesting focal point of the room, producing a very warm and romantic ambience.
Upgraded Looks of Mario’s Menus and Lists
Mario’s was known for their rustic-looking menus. That is why they retained the homemade paper look of the cover and combined it with pages that are modern, glossy, and with mouth-watering pictures of their signature dishes.
Glossy pages of the menu
They have also changed their Chef’s Specials, Take Out, Christmas Specials, and Wine Lists to match the look and feel of their new website, which I will be talking about later.
Updated look of their Wine List and Chef’s Specials
Take Out List and Christmas Specials
New Mario’s Website
The new Mario’s website is everything it should be. Its layout is an accurate representation of the classy yet modern atmosphere that Mario’s has been striving for in their restaurants. The site is very simple, yet contains all the necessary pieces of information people on the net are looking for in a website.
The Total Mario’s Experience
Upon entering the wooden doors of Mario’s, the first thing that caught my attention was the guy playing “Smooth Operator” by one of my favorite artists, Sade, on the piano.
Next to good music, the next things I can’t resist are sweet goods. When I saw the display and the trolley of sweets, I tried with great lengths to stop myself from pulling a Lori Baltazar and request that dessert comes first.
Display of cakes and sweets
This whole lot I could finish all by myself, I’m sure.
Before we began our festive dinner, Spanky Enriquez from Juice.ph took the floor to introduce two key players in managing Mario’s – Chef Anton and Sir Jose Fil Benitez. The siblings have quite a nice working set up. One functions as the executive chef for Mario’s – Chef Anton, who handles the kitchen, while Sir Jose Fil Benitez takes care of marketing and the finances. Their tandem reminds me of the somewhat similar set up we have here at Certified Foodies – one cooks (me), while the other does pretty much everything else (my sister, Mhel). Haha! 😀
From Left: Spanky Enriquez, Chef Anton Benitez, and Sir Jose Fil Benitez
Chef Anton proudly shared a brief history of how Mario’s became what it is now. Sir Fil, on the other hand, talked about various unforgettable memories they have had in managing the restaurant. For someone like me who is pursuing a career in the food industry, hearing these things from them gives me an idea of the ups and downs of starting a restaurant business. And I can’t forget when Sir Fil said (not in his exact words), “As long as you’re passionate with what you’re doing, success will eventually come.”
For our appetizers, we shared a huge pan of Oysters Rockefeller, which are baked with spinach and hollandaise sauce. An individual serving would cost Php 265.00.
I usually hate oysters because of their gooey texture, but this baked interpretation was quite crunchy and the hollandaise sauce, I found, was not too overpowering. And don’t forget to squeeze some calamansi onto the oysters because it kicks the flavor up a notch.
Oysters Rockefeller – Php 265
A portion of Oysters Rockefeller
Next to tickle our appetite was the Gambas con Chorizo (Php 345). I both love shrimps and chorizo, and having them together like this is quite a fascinating mix. I could have this for breakfast everyday.
Gambas con Chorizo – Php 345
And before I forget, once you’re seated comfortably on your seats, you are offered a basket of bread coupled with some spreadable butter. They’re for free, and they are freshly made in their kitchen every day. I can attest to that because I managed to press a few buns to check for freshness. Haha. I inherited that weird habit from my mom. 😀
Listen up: free bread for everyone.
For our plate of greens, we had what they consider as Mario’s crown jewel – the famous Caesar Salad (Php 255), “prepared the inimitable Mario’s way.” One of their servers demonstrated how they prepare the salad, even sharing us the secret recipe of their special salad dressing. It’s somewhat similar to making a hollandaise sauce, but with this, the egg yolks are not cooked at all.
The dressing was phenomenal that I couldn’t get enough of it. It was very dense and creamy. You would even think that there weren’t any eggs in it. I’m very excited to try it at home. I’ll be posting their Caesar Salad recipe in another post, so better watch out for that.
For our main course, we were asked to choose one from their four (4) bestsellers. Ever since we got there, I’ve been hearing Spanky rave about how good Mario’s Santol Glazed Pork Chop was, so I ordered a serving of that to share with everyone in our table, but I ended up finishing the whole plate by myself. Again, I am very sorry. Haha. 😀
The pork chop was divine. I know I may sound caveman-ish by saying it’s the first time I had pork chop this tender. Even when you cut through the meat, you’ll see that it was cooked to perfection because the inside is very moist. The santol glaze provided a subtle tanginess that I really enjoyed, and it served as a nice complement to the charred goodness of the pork.
Santol Glazed Pork Chop – Php 380
Someone from our table ordered the Bacalao a la Vizcaina. It is salted cod fish cooked in a very rich tomato sauce. There was no wonder the servers were urging us to order this. It’s a very toothsome meal and quite filling, too.
Bacalao a la Vizcaina – Php 625
I suggested my sister, Mhel, to go for the Salpicon de Mar y Tierra since it’s the only dish no one has ordered yet in our table. I was quite jealous when this arrived. The dish is made up of shrimps and tenderloin cubes sautéed in olive oil, garlic and chilies on a bed of garlic rice. I loved this surf and turf dish a lot for it’s a plate that marries the abundance of the sea and the strong flavors of the earth. (Poetic, eh?)
Salpicon de Mar y Tierra – Php 425
When I read on the menu Corned Beef and Cabbage, I immediately thought of shredded beef similar to the canned ones, so I was really shocked when this plate landed on our table. The beef was very tender and well seasoned. The cabbage was cooked quite right, not too soggy nor too crunchy.
Corned Beef and Cabbage – Php 395
Mario’s Interpretation of Rice
Next to the huge platter of Oysters Rockefeller we shared stood a huge pan of very warm Paella Valenciana, a mix of seafood, chicken, pork and sausage cooked with saffron rice, vegetables and herbs. It’s quite obvious that carefully prepared stock was used to cook the rice for it was very tasty.
Paella Valenciana – Php 595 (Serves 2-3 Persons)
Woohoo! On to my favorite part of the dinner – desserts! When everyone was done eating their entrees, Spanky came in pushing a trolley of heavenly sweet goods.
The first thing I eyed for was the Apple Pie (Php 175). It is layers upon layers of delicious granny smith apples, flavored with cinnamon and brown sugar. From now on, I’ll be making all my apple pies like this – thin crusted but with generous amount of pie filling.
The creamy Leche Flan done ala Mario’s was very dense and creamy, and the caramel syrup was just of the right sweetness.
For those who are watching on their sweet intake, this Sugar-free Jello (Php 95) would be the right choice. It has less the sugar content, but doesn’t deprive you of flavor.
I enjoyed eating the Canonigo (Php 90), especially together with that dip. It’s a modest yet enjoying way of ending a meal.
Now it’s time for some flambéed Mango Jubilee. Desserts like these were quite famous back in the days because of the extra flair required in preparing it. But then and now, it’s still a dessert that brings you the best of both worlds – warm mango flambé and cold vanilla ice cream.
Lastly, the dessert I’m dying to binge on again is Mario’s Toffee Sans Rival (Php 120). It’s the type of dessert you’d eat after a hard day’s work, when all you want to do is wear your pajamas, curl like a baby, and eat all your worries away. When I had my first bite of this, all I could muster was, “That’s comfort food right there!”
In conclusion, we would to congratulate the Benitez family and the whole Mario’s team for their successful 40 years! May you continue serving your customers great food and wonderful experiences. Just like what Sir Fil said, “Why change something when it’s not broken?”. The consistency of your service and food has always been your strongest suit. Looking forward to coming back to have a taste of your other delicious dishes, especially that Banoffee Pie!
For Reservations, Gift Certificates and Food Orders:
- Telephone numbers: 372.0360 / 415.3887
- Fax numbers: 372.0352
- Email Address: [email protected]
- Telephone number: (074) 442.4241
- Fax number: (074) 442.5445
- Email Address: [email protected]
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/Marios.Group
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