CHARLOTTE – “A stranger is just a friend [we] haven’t met yet,” Barry Steiger says with a smile as he paraphrases the incomparable Roy Rogers. Steiger is confident that this attitude is what will give any customer a truly enjoyable time at Mario’s Italian Restaurant and John’s Place in Matthews, NC. As the restaurant’s Relationship Development and Marketing Manager, Steiger knows, “Our exceptional staff creates a one-of-a-kind experience for each customer who comes through the doors.” And the location definitely lives up to that promise.
Entering the door to Mario’s Italian Restaurant is like being wrapped up in a familiar hug. There are several welcoming rooms filled with spacious booths and fun decor. The classically Italian scents of garlic and basil complement the laughter and conversation that each table enjoys. “Mario’s is a family-friendly, hometown experience. People can bring their kids to our dining rooms or their dogs to our outdoor patio. We want to make sure everyone knows they are welcome,” Steiger smiles. “It’s like going home to Mama’s kitchen. Everything on our menu is made from scratch.”
And their menu is phenomenal. Whether a customer is enjoying a traditional Italian pizza or discovering a unique menu item like the House-Seasoned Double-Cut Pork Chop, Mario’s Italian Restaurant, and John’s Place are guaranteed to provide a diner with their new favorite dish. “We have a robust menu, and I am proud of every single item on it,” says Executive Chef Craig Gillenwalters. When it comes to food, passion is important. After 37 years as a chef, Gillenwalters still has that drive. “Man, if I’m cooking it, I’m loving it,” he winks. Since everything is made from scratch, the menu can also respect a variety of food allergens. “We make everything piece by piece, so we can accommodate any diner and their needs,” Gillenwalters concludes.
Catering to dietary needs isn’t the only way this restaurant makes the customer a priority. They also have an amazing and convenient drive-thru pick-up window. “We are one of the only restaurants in the area that has that,” Barry Steiger proudly informs. “A customer can order ahead online for a 10% discount off their meal. Then, they can drive up and get the food safely. We also employ our own drivers so the food can be brought directly to a customer’s home. It arrives quickly and is still hot from the stove.”
“The drive-thru pick-up window is so great,” local resident and long-time customer, Jen Shaw, says. “This place got my nephew and his family through COVID. They live just around the corner, and knowing that they could have freshly cooked healthy food was very valuable throughout this last year.”
The restaurant’s Sunday Brunch is also a point of well-earned pride. “It’s from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm, and there is never a wait,” owner John Fisichello comments. “And since everything is made from scratch, we can guarantee top quality food, service, and portions. That’s what our customers are looking for, and that’s what we deliver.”
While Mario’s Italian Restaurant answers the need for a family locale, John’s Place has always been the perfect adults-only space for a date night, girl’s night out, or a boy’s game watch night. Recently, Fisichello modernized with an expansion. With this new outdoor area, John’s Place truly becomes a “one-stop-shop” for any event that could be hosted.
Barry Steiger says the whole team is excited about the growth. “We’ve always been able to cater large parties on and off-site. We also have hosted events in our beautiful Charlotte Room,” Steiger explains, “but now we have over 400 hundred seats. We can host weddings and business events. You can rent the whole space for a reasonable price. We can also divide the terrace into sections to meet the needs of smaller parties. If you are looking for a spectacular wedding venue, you must check out our brand new, state-of-the-art covered outdoor Pergola that will accommodate any wedding or special occasion.”
The new event rooms are beautiful and spacious, complete with a fireplace and original art installations from Noel Hall. The terraced patio is specifically designed to ensure a quality experience. “We can close the shades if it’s too sunny in the late afternoon. And if even a drop of rain hits our roof slats, they automatically close,” Steiger shares. “We have created a place that maintains a casual atmosphere without sacrificing high-end, high-quality food. I think that’s why people love it so much.”
Steiger is correct. They have many returning customers who love knowing they don’t have to leave their own town and area to find a restaurant with a classy ambiance and the highest quality of food. But it isn’t just the restaurant the community loves; it’s John, Barry, and their whole team.
The people who work at Mario’s Italian Restaurant and John’s Place are serious about community support. Their naturally generous hearts overflow into local outreach. They host fundraisers. They support local schools and clubs. They are on the boards of town chambers and high schools. “These are our people,” Barry grins. “We’re very focused on meeting the needs of the Tri-W area. We always want to create opportunities to reach out and help the community. In fact, we’re currently getting ready to host a really fun Trunk or Treat event on October 30th.”
Mario’s and John’s Place is also very excited to offer a full Thanksgiving meal for two this year. The meal includes all of the delicious elements of a Thanksgiving dinner without any of the fuss of cooking or cleaning up. It comes fully baked and just needs to be reheated in the oven. Customers can order by 10:00 PM, Sunday, November 21, and pick it up either Tuesday or Wednesday of Thanksgiving week.
The entire team hopes locals will check out Mario’s Italian Restaurant and John’s Place, either by coming to 2945 Matthews Weddington Road or by visiting eatmariospizza.com. “We have never met a stranger who didn’t become a friend,” Steiger encourages, “Stop by and have a truly authentic experience at the best kept secret in the Tri-W area!”