Mario's Pizza brings a taste of Italy to Glenwood.
If I had to limit my description of Mario's Pizza in Glenwood to one word, it would be this: calzones!
Okay, to be fair to Mario's, I would have to utter that one word with passionate, eye-rolling, near swooning rapture. And, well, to leave out the mention of "pizza" would be negligence, for sure, even scandalous — especially since this unpretentious eatery serves up better pie than you'll find in many a big city.
But a recent visit to the tiny, scenic mountain town will forever be remembered as the time I had, absolutely, the best calzone of my life.
To call this diminutive restaurant with just a handful of tables "unassuming" would be an understatement. Its hours — open just two days a week — and cuisine are listed on a marquee better suited to a video store than a restaurant. On appearances alone, one might be led to not expect too much.
The fact that the eatery also does, in fact, rent videos may further put a snooty foodie's nose out of joint. (Hey, this is a small town! The locals need a place where they can grab a quick bite and pick up a movie!)
But let those snooty foodies pass right on by. That just means less waiting for the most splendid calzone on the planet to make its way to my table.
The drill here is decidedly no-frills. You order up at the counter and food is delivered to the table. Peruse the video selection. Admire the scenic murals that go entirely around the restaurant, showing a quaint mountain scene transformed from spring to winter, or winter to spring, depending on where you start.
I sip my fresh-brewed iced tea, enjoy the aromas floating out of the kitchen and chat with folks picking up their to-go orders — take-out business is fast and furious tonight.
A family of five at the next table is consumed by oohs and ahhs as their food is laid down: Dad gets a green-chile cheeseburger ($7), Mom gets a plate of classic spaghetti with meatballs ($9), served with a small tossed salad and garlic bread, and the three kids hunker down to share a large Supreme pizza ($20), topped with pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, olives and onions.
Perhaps because Glenwood is just a friendly little town, or perhaps because I've been staring hungrily and asking how that burger is cooked — "Perfect!" Dad says, showing the pink center revealed by his first bite — Mom offers me a slice of the kids' pizza. They'll never finish it all, she insists.
Trying to be polite, I accept a slice she cuts in half. It's easily the best pizza I've tasted in New Mexico: tender, just-right crust and tasty toppings. But what stands out to me is the tangy-sweet marinara — I have this thing about sauce. This one's a star in its own right, not just something to wet the crust and carry the toppings. This sauce adds flavor!
Mom insists I try one of her meatballs, and I'm not too proud to do so. It is zesty, garlicky, just right. Mama mia! I cannot wait for my calzone to arrive.
We chat about the weather, how old the kids are. Turns out they don't live here either, but have eaten here once before and made it a point to stop in their next time through Glenwood.
Just then, my chance to have a life-changing experience with a calzone arrives. It is puffed, golden-brown and generously glazed with garlic butter. The first slice releases a gush of that same amazing marinara and a profusion of molten cheese — provolone, I discover. A calzone with one filling item, called a "topping" here, is $8.25, with additional toppings another 65 cents. I've picked spinach and Italian sausage, and find both in abundance.
The spinach is fresh-tasting, brilliantly green; the sausage, sweet. I'm in heaven, Calzone Heaven.
Owing to the "tastings" of my neighbors' food before my own meal arrived, and also the urge to be polite and eyeing the generous portion before me, I offer some of my precious calzone to the kids. But, no, they're saving room for dessert — ice cream.
I accept their refusal and keep eating, forcing myself to do justice to every last bite. This will have to hold me, after all, until the next time I make my way to Glenwood! For me, there will be no room for ice cream, nor is there any reason to top off this simply fabulous meal with a sweet treat of any sort.
Can I say it again? Calzone!
— Donna Clayton Lawder
Mario's Pizza, Hwy. 180, Glenwood, 539-2316. Tuesdays 2-8 p.m.; Saturdays 4-8 p.m.