As restaurants struggle to stay open throughout the city due to escalating minimum wage, and increasing rent and property taxes, one eatery in the Bronx continues its formula for success for a century.
Mario’s Restaurant, located on 2342 Arthur Avenue, has been making Neapolitan Italian cuisine the same way for 100 years. Joe Migliucci and his daughter Regina Migliucci-Delfino operate the five-generation landmark, but the story began many years ago.
In 1915 Migliucci’s great grandmother, Scolastica Migliucci and her son Giuseppe opened a small pizzeria in Harlem.
One day while shopping in ‘Little Italy’ in the Bronx, they saw an empty storefront and realized it was the perfect place for a restaurant. So, they closed their Harlem shop and four years later launched G. Migliucci Vera Pizzeria.
Giuseppe who had two kids of his own, Mario and Clemente, eventually changed the name to Mario’s.
“We all have the same passion,” Migliucci-Delfino said. “We care about each other.”
Migliucci-Delfino recalled that when she was a teenager, Mario’s was her second home. She would spend her weekends there, admiring her dad and grandpa.
Her grandparents Mario and Rose were a huge part of her life. They instilled in her the passion for the business and showed her how to treat people.
“They were very well known in the community,” she said. “She was the matriarch of Arthur Avenue”
According to Migliucci-Delfino, her friends thought it was the coolest thing that her family owned an iconic restaurant, but to her it was normal.
She didn’t plan to work there, but when the second floor was added for catering in the late 80s she left her job as an office manager and came there fulltime.
The place that began as a small pizzeria seated 15 people, but today holds up to 400 guests and is jam-packed every weekend. She noted there were customers that had their own table each week.
Migliucci-Delfino explained the business hasn’t always been sunshine and roses. Times were hard after 9/11 and the recession in 2008.
But their patience, dedication to customers and the fact that 90 percent of the recipes are the same since they opened, has always kept people coming back.
“You never want to have someone unhappy,” she said. If something’s wrong I want you to tell me. Not everybody likes everything.”
The passion for the business has continued with her family. Her son, Damian, who plans to attend college in the fall, helps out at the restaurant and her brother, Michael, just retired.
She noted that some people open restaurants hoping to become millionaires, but it’s really about providing good food and service for the community.
“It’s the hardest business to make that type of money,” she explained. “You have to love what you do. I took a lot from my grandparents, who had the passion for the business, the people and the food.”