Some of my favorite places are little neighborhood sandwich shops and pizza joints, the hidden gems everyone in the community knows but outsiders find only if they happen to stumble upon them. The kind of place where you can sit at a table, have dinner and chat with your neighbors, or grab some take-out and enjoy a no-work dinner with the family. The kind with friendly staff who go out of their way for customers. The kind with good, homemade food that satisfies everyone.

Mario’s Italian Restaurant located on Route 100 in New Gloucester is one of my new favorite places.

I pass Mario’s every day and have always wondered about the neat little restaurant. Turns out the neat little outside masks … well, a neat little inside. One order counter lined with homemade desserts. Several tables in the back. A menu so large that it spans two walls.

Opened 25 years ago, Mario’s is a family-owned franchise of Lewiston-based Sam’s. The two restaurants share some of the same foods, including pizza dough, sauce and meatballs, but Mario’s also makes a lot of its own. The restaurant also prides itself on its hearth-style pizza oven, which co-owner Christina Gray believes makes better pizza than an oven with a conveyor belt, a la Sam’s.

Mario’s offers standard sandwich shop/pizza joint fare with a few surprises thrown in. Italians, steak sandwiches and pizzas are popular, but so are the homemade breakfasts, fried chicken and salads. Its whole wheat Italian rolls and gluten-free pizza crusts fly out the door, according to Gray. For my first lunch at Mario’s, I stayed pretty traditional: a 6-inch “veggie delite” pizza ($5.90), a small order of French fries ($1.30) and garlic bread ($1.75), all to go. Packaged well, everything stayed hot through the 20-minute ride back to the office.

The pizza was mini-sized — perfect for one person for lunch — and piled high with mushrooms, onions, green peppers, broccoli and tomatoes. It had just enough sauce and just enough cheese without either overwhelming. The thick crust was soft but not limp. The vegetables were cooked but not soggy. It was very good pizza.


Torn between the onion rings and French fries, I went with the fries because they were homemade. I was glad I did. They were very slightly crunchy on the outside and mushy on the inside (as all good fries should be!) and tasted like they’d been freshly cut.

The garlic bread was slightly chewy by itself, but dip it in the spaghetti sauce that accompanied it and the bread jumped instantly from OK to fantastic. It had just enough garlic to keep my interest — but not enough to offend nearby co-workers — and the dipping sauce added a tangy kick to complement it.

The next time I pass by Mario’s, I probably won’t pass it by.

Tasty tidbits

What: Mario’s Italian Restaurant

Where: Route 100, New Gloucester (also in Bath, under different ownership)

When: Monday-Thursday 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. 

Why: Great pizza and sandwiches, popular breakfast fare, fried dishes and pasta dinners, many foods are homemade.

Prices: Inexpensive to reasonable.

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