Farewell, old friend. Mario made more than great food.
Mario is gone. It was less than a shock when I learned this yesterday — he hadn’t quite been himself for a while — but another piece of my heart was taken when news of his passing reached me. Maybe it’s because I associate him with so many good times, warm visits, and fantastic meals over the years. I can hear his kind Italian accent, see him anchoring the corner of the bar, coffee cup in one hand, the other offering a friendly wave and hello. I can smell the garlic, and hear the clink of beer bottles over the restaurant din. Mario, a fitting name for the man and for the restaurant. The two were indistinguishable, really. What ELSE would it be called? As we continue to see the era of locally-owned, proprietor-operated businesses fade, we can fondly recall Mario and Mario’s. When you walked into Mario’s, you could shake Mario’s hand, and even meet his family. I’m glad to have shared all of these years with him. It’s as though a piece of Dubuque is forever gone, every bit as real as if a bluff collapsed, or a building on the Loras Campus was razed. He made Dubuque what it is, and he was great at what he did. Lord knows his stuffed shells probably made a bit more of me than I really need to carry around. Here’s to you, Mario. Arrivederci!