Review: Mario’s Place

For Virginia’s birthday we took a trip over to Mario’s place for some fancy Italian food. We have been to Mario’s once before but that was before I wrote about the things I ate. Out of all the restaurants in Riverside this place is by far one of the best and probably rivals some of the Italian food on the east coast. I know right? From a New Jersey kid that is a lot to say about a Riverside restaurant so I was hoping it would not disappoint this time around.
I really enjoy the ambiance of this place, upscale but relaxed, where you can dress up and feel right or show up in jeans and fit in just the same. We choose to dress up when coming here because there are so few places in Riverside where you can suit up and not look out of place. They also lower the lighting as the night goes on creating an intimate atmosphere that is just right for a place with this kind of food. I only wish it didn’t cost over $100 to eat there every time but I guess sometimes you get what you pay for.
For my first course I ordered the crispy squash blossoms. I have seen those on some of the food network shows and figured now was a good a time as any to order them.
mmmm goat cheese
 These blossoms were almost tempura fried with such a light batter you could see the flower right through it. Filled with creamy goat cheese that oozed out when you cut them and resting atop a tomato basil sauce these blossoms were delicious. I was expecting them to be a bit greasy but they were crisp and light and a wonderful start to the meal.
Next I was prepared to order the wild boar ragu but was drawn away by the description of their pasta special. What was it you ask? Parpadelle with duck ragu, kalamata olives, and shaved Parmesan cheese. I had never heard of a duck pasta and I do love duck so I had to go for it.
Duck Ragu and Parpadelle Pasta
Wow, remember the short ribs at Buddakan and the reaction I had to that? This was very similar. The ragu had an immense amount of flavor and the duck meat just melted into it to create a thick coating on the pasta. And the pasta, just a tiny bit al dente and the perfect vessel for the ragu. Even the addition of kalamata olives was brilliant. They added the saltiness that the dish needed but since they were halved you could choose when to eat them instead of having them completely incorporated. I could eat some pasta, mix in the duck, take an olive half and add in the Parmesan just for a cheesy bite. It was only a moderately sized portion but it was so rich that I was full halfway through, but let’s be honest, I finished the whole thing. It was just that good. Too bad it was a special because I would eat that every time if I could. What an amazing entree.
For dessert I ordered the chocolate raspberry purse which was pretty good just not the best thing I ate that night. The purse was chocolate sponge cake, melted chocolate, and raspberries wrapped in phyllo dough with some raspberry sorbet on the side. It was also a nice addition to crisp up a few pieces of phyllo and lay them on top of the purse. Don’t get me wrong it was a good dessert and the sorbet was deliciously tart and tangy but for me the sponge cake to melted chocolate ratio was off. I was really hoping for the chocolate to ooze out when I cut into it like a volcano cake but the chocolate had mostly soaked into the sponge and didn’t really ooze much at all. All in all it was a little on the dry side but a nice ending to a great meal.
Ooze damn you ooze!
I would definitely go back to Mario’s Place and would recommend that you check it out. It really is a gem hanging out in the sea of sad excuses for Italian food in Riverside.
Overall Review: 8/10

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