In case you missed it, there’s a new ultra-hyped pizza spot in St. Paul.
It’s called Mario’s, and they promise to help you fall in love with pizza again.
Curious about Detroit Pizza in the Twin Cities? Armed with our camera and a notepad, we’re here to report back all the details about this new spot!
- DiscoverTheCities.com “Must Eats” at Mario’s
- About Mario’s
- Our Full Review
- Final Thoughts: We Loved Mario’s
- Random DTC Protips and FAQs:
DiscoverTheCities.com “Must Eats” at Mario’s
- Caccio E Pepe Pizza
- Garlice Cheese Bread Donuts
Mario’s opened last year and promised some of the best pizza in town.
A bold claim, but then again, this place is ran by the same team that brought us Estelle – one of our favorite restaurants in all of St. Paul (full review here) and esteemed winner of one of the best things we ate in 2022.
The menu at Mario’s is simple; you get a half-dozen options for pan pizza, served Detroit Style. What the heck is Detriot Style? Well, it’s not quite Chicago Deep Dish, and it’s definitely not New York thin slice. It’s somewhere in the middle, which is why head chef Jason Hansen has settled on calling it a “pan pizza.”
We’ll get to the taste test in a moment, but you can rest assured that this is a square cut, thicker crust, oven baked pizza.
They also specialize in Italian Hero sandwiches, served on a hoagie bun that’s made fresh every day.
Our Full Review
You can find Mario’s in the Merriam Park neighborhood of St. Paul, about three blocks north of the St. Thomas campus.
The location is an unassuming, brick strip-center. It’s wedged between an old dry cleaners / picture framing business on one side and plenty of quirky, Marshall Ave shops on the other. (Including Nellie’s Ice Cream, which makes for a wonderful dessert finish to the night! Not that we’d know anything about piling on a mountain of ice cream after downing multiple pizzas and beers. 😳)
You can either park on the street or in a larger dedicated lot behind the building. (We were able to find plenty of parking on a Friday night, another reason why weekend dining in St. Paul is such an underrated activity compared to the larger Twin City…)
Vibe & Atmosphere
Inside, we immediately fell in love with Mario’s vibe.
They’ve gone full “retro Midwest pizza shop” – complete with cheap wood paneling, historic beer cans on the wall, and even a vintage arcade machine. (Super Mario Bros, of course!)
Everything is very casual, and yet it just feels perfect for a neighborhood pizza shop. You order at the counter. You seat yourself wherever you want. And the drink selection consists mostly of craft beer in a grab-and-go fridge or domestics served by the pitcher.
We found it to be instantly comforting… Exactly what we’re looking for when we’re about to take on a menu filled with the ultimate comfort food!
It was Friday night, and we were craving the pizza.
So, we opted out of the highly-praised Italian Hero Sandwiches and instead vowed to return for those someday over lunch. (Speaking of which, Mario’s even runs a pizza by the slice deal until 3 PM daily, in case you needed any more incentive.)
Appetizer – Garlic Cheese Bread Donuts
If a pizza place mixed cheese curds with the fancy chef’s technique of fried arancini, (shout out to The Bungalow Club) you’d get what Mario’s calls “Garlic Cheese Bread Donuts.”
And wow… what a start.
The outside of these are perfectly crunchy and for good measure, topped with parmesan garlic cheese. Inside is rich and cheesy goodness.
How cheesy, you ask?
I present to you, Exhibit A:
It’s no surprise coming from the Estelle team, but these folks clearly know what they’re doing!
Pizza #1: Cacio E Pepe
We asked the super-friendly cashier for her favorite pizzas on the menu, and she immediately began raving about the Cacio E Pepe.
Cacio E Pepe is no stranger to the Twin Cities… folks who have checked out Hyacinth’s James Beard-wining take on this pasta dish will know what to expect from its flavors. (Lots of white sauce, black pepper, and pecorino cheese.)
Mario’s grabs that flavor profile and plops it right onto their pan pizza. And my goodness, does it hit!
The pizza’s thick crust holds up well to the mountain of cheese. (All the pizza here comes on big, perfectly crispy focaccia bread.) All in all, this creation literally tastes like alfredo pasta on a pizza, and it immediately became one of our favorites in town.
Pizza #2: Hot Honey and Pepperoni
Pretty self explanatory here… they take that same amazing focaccia crust, add the usual red sauce and mozzarella cheese, and then top it with pepperoni, spicy honey, and jalapenos.
The result is an amazing spicy-sweet profile that we’ve seen at some of the other best pizza restaurants in Minneapolis, namely Pizzeria Lola & Young Joni. But the extra thickness of Mario’s style adds a fun twist to an already fun pizza, making this another home run.
Final Thoughts: We Loved Mario’s
We think Mario’s has a total gem on its hands.
They’re nailing the casual concept:
- Relatively easy parking – check.
- Simple counter service menu – check.
- Seat yourself with several open tables even during prime hours – check.
- Craft beer served by the can, or domestics served by the mug/pitcher – check and check.
Top it all off with some of the most unique and delicious pizza we’ve tried anywhere, and this seems like the perfect spot for a casual night out or even a quick lunch.
We’ll definitely be back to try those Hero sandwiches, or maybe even some of those daytime pizza by the slice deals.
Speaking of which, on our way out, one of the servers raved to us about their Artichoke Pizza, so add that to our must-try list, too!
And it’s really worth repeating… the pizza here was soo good. 🤤
Random DTC Protips and FAQs:
How big are the pizzas?
They come as 8 slices per pizza, and I’m pretty sure 3-4 slices could fill even the heartiest appetites. (While we did get an appetizer, Sean and I ate 3.5 and 2.5 slices, respectively, and we were both absolutely stuffed.)
We suspect this is why Mario’s is college-student-approved, despite the pizzas running over 20 bucks each.
Ordering Protip – Half Flavors
It seems you can order half and half pizzas, i.e., a different flavor for each side of the pizza.
At least that’s what we gathered from the phone call order we heard as we packed up our massive mountain of leftovers, thanks to our over-ambitious attempt to try as much of the menu as possible.
We’ll definitely take the half-and-half approach next time, and if you’re as undecided as we are, we recommend you do, too!
There’s a couple spots on the street and a larger parking lot in the back. (Keep your eyes peeled for the big sidewalk sign pointing you in the right direction.)
Do you need reservations to visit Mario’s?
We walked in on a Friday night. Given the counter service, it doesn’t seem like the reservation type of place.
232 Cleveland Ave N, St Paul, MN 55104