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Mario the Baker

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Mario the Baker

Neil G | Jun 12, 2002 01:25 PM

Well, I finally made it to MTB on Monday night. I can see why Chuck is a passionate advocate for the place: it's real. Is it an extraordinary gourmet experience? No...but it's a friendly, unpretentious, homey, red sauce Italian with good food at reasonable prices -- the kind of place that should be a staple of any neighborhood, and sadly is not. We have to cherish one where we can find it. MTB definitely fits the bill.

We ordered an "individual gourmet pizza" -- with sausage and red peppers -- and fried calamari to start. The pizza was good; the red peppers added a nice sweetness to balance the homemade (or so it seemed) sausage. The fried calamari was exceptionally tender, not at all greasy, and the red sauce, with chunks of garlic and tomato, a delight.

Our pleasant, young waitress failed to inform us that there were specials in addition to the very basic menu. After ordering I spied the message board on the wall listing a wide variety of choices (many fish) and alerted the waitress that I wanted to change my order to one of the specials. No problem.

I asked what the "Frank Sinatra Special" was, as I am an aficianado, but the seafood and pasta description didn't do it for me. It was just one of those things. We wound up with veal parmigiana from the regular menu, with spaghetti and red sauce, and chicken scarpariello from the special list. I asked if I could get garlic and oil instead of red sauce on my pasta; I was informed there would be a $1.75 surcharge. Pretty outrageous given it's a side dish that comes included with the dinner; usually that's a substitution restaurants do for free (garlic and oil being no more expensive than a marinara sauce). I went for it, though; I wanted to try the garlic and oil. And it was amazing -- I have to say after tasting it that I would feel foolish quibbling about mere money in the context of such transcendent deliciousness -- but my job is to report the whole story to you, dear reader.

The veal parmigiana was terrific -- thin, pounded veal, succulent, with perfect cheese and red sauce. The chicken scarpariello was less successful; not bad, but instead of the bone-in chicken swimming in a flavorful brown sauce I was expecting, the white meat chicken appeared almost poached, spherical, and in an oil-based liquid that did not hold together to be deemed a true sauce. There was sausage that appeared altogether different in consistency (more like a meat loaf) than I had experienced in the pizza...I hope it was sausage! Pepperocini was used, interestingly, to provide some bite (I've more typically seen spicy red peppers in that role).

We did not order dessert -- we were kind of full after all that, and had to go anyway -- so unfortunately I can't comment on dessert (for now). But I'll be back!

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