Big Mario's mascot, a life-size photo of a 1970s dude wearing a white three-piece suit with a maroon butterfly collar, who I presume is Big Mario himself, is the best restaurant mascot in Seattle. He looks like Ron Jeremy's stand-in.
"Now is the pizza of our discontent."
But for what, exactly, would a porn star's stand-in stand in? Surely not the sex. That is, after all, what Ron Jeremy gets paid for. No, Ron Jeremy's stand-in, Big Mario, stands in for the dialogue. Whenever the sex scenes are done, Big Mario steps in and recites lines from Shakespeare's King Henry VI, Part I. Big Mario plays Lord Talbot: "God and Saint George, Talbot and England's right," spake Big Mario, "Prosper our colours in this dangerous fight." Then Big Mario exits the stage to finish baking some killer 'za.But how good is the killer 'za? Turns out it's OK. On weekends, they've got at least 15 different kinds of slices available, everything from the standard cheese and pepperoni to vegetarian pies with lots of tomato and onion, and of course the freak slices with shit like artichoke hearts on them. Sicilian pizza slices are also available, for $3.75. These come in big puffy rectangles, cut into a regular grid like brownies.
Cheese slices are $2.75. This gets you a fat triangle of pizza with a sweet sauce and lots of cheese. The crust is pliable and thin, but not insubstantial like Neapolitan pizza, which is as thin as the plot of one of Ron Jeremy's movies. It's chewy, and devoid of the gigantic air-filled pizza tumors that plague lesser crusts.
Pepperoni ($3.25) is generally good. This slice comes with lots of the eponymous sausage: meaty crimson areolas cup a shallow well of rendered fat, arranged into neat concentric circles atop the cheese. It's a bit greasy, though not nearly as greasy as Capitol Hill standby Piecora's, whose pepperoni slices come to the table coated in an orange oil slick so vast, if you accidentally tilted the plate you'd have to face a Congressional subcommittee.
Sausage and mushroom ($3.75) is the better way to go, since the crumbled Italian sausage is flavorful and spicy. The mushrooms seem to have been sautéed before being applied to the pizza's surface. This is always a bonus: Mushrooms just end up tasting like foamy cardboard with the texture of Lucky Charms marshmallows if you try to throw them onto a pizza raw.
Like all decent pizza joints, Big Mario's also sells salads and pasta. The Caesar ($7.50) is pretty big: You get a leafy bale of crisp Romaine, spackled with a remarkably uniform coating of dressing, which is sadly devoid of garlic flavor. The salad is punctuated with lots of croutons, puffy and crusty like carbohydrate cumulonimbi.
The baked ziti ($7.50) is similarly proficient, and comes to the table as a doughy brick of pasta. The top is baked into a slag that flirts dangerously with being overcooked, yet amazingly isn't, so that it ends up being crunchy and caramelized instead of sooty. Below the crust lies a honeycomb of ziti, tangled like a medieval sewer system, but instead of human feces and plague-infested rats, these pipes carry a savory payload of cheese and tomato sauce. The ziti is topped with a superfluous drift of basil chiffonade. Tasty. This dish carries the distinction, rare among pasta dishes, of being even tastier if eaten the next day, directly from the box, preferably in one's underwear, while watching Say Yes to the Dress. Hangover optional.
If Big Mario's has any fault, it's that it's populated with too many hipster douchebags, and the dining room itself is packed like Oprah's colon. Like Hell in Dante's Inferno, it gets worse the farther in you go. The front, near the cash register, where you choose your pizza slices, is OK, but near the bar the dumb roar of lame 1980s music becomes unbearable: I may be dating myself, but I hated A-Ha and Elvis Costello when I was 8, and I hate them now.
Going farther back, you enter the cramped labyrinth of tables, which are seemingly never bussed. These present grim tablescapes, slick with condensation rings from long- discarded cans of Rainier and dotted with crumbled napkin tumbleweeds. Farther back is the bar. Prepare to be ignored by the bartenders, and heaven forbid you order an appletini, for you'll be surely mocked, although in the bartenders' defense they would be right to laugh at you.
So you have two best bets: Either grab a slice to go or, if you live or work on Capitol Hill, cut out early and head to Big Mario's at 3 p.m. for "Power Hour." The drink specials during Power Hour are truly phantasmagoric, whatever that means: Tecate or Rainier cans for $1. Forties of Olde English for $4. Cans of Hamm's for FIFTY CENTS. I don't know if pizza goes on sale during this time, but fuck it: Recoup your cost by getting stone-cold shitfaced.
I will say this about Big Mario's: FOLLOW THESE MOTHERFUCKERS ON TWITTER. They announce drink and food specials there and also provide a running social commentary, free of charge, complete with quotable gems such as "Watching Conan. Hella epic." I agree, Big Mario, I agree.
Big Mario's serves up serviceable slices for a reasonable price. Is it really so bad inside? Not really, but if I wanted to eat a gigantic slice of pizza in a dive bar, I'd get a slice from Talarico's and eat it across the street at the Poggie. As Sartre said, Hell really is other pizza.
Rating: 6 hells out of 10.
Big Mario's is located at 1009 E Pine St. To place an order call 922-3875.