The holidays might be over, but they brought a gift that diners in Jamaica Plain are still savoring: the hand-tossed, New York-style pizzas from new takeout spot Mario’s, a reboot of a popular Roxbury pizzeria that closed about two years ago.
The restaurant at 8 Perkins Street in Hyde Square opened on December 21, and signals the culinary comeback of chef and owner Mario Bailote, who describes his slices as “pizza with a Portuguese twist.” Bailote immigrated to America from the Algarve region in southern Portugal over thirty years ago. From spicy piri-piri sauce imported from Portugal, to fig glaze drizzled over bacon for a savory-sweet mashup, to rich pizza sauce made with certified San Marzano tomatoes, Bailote’s menu melds the flavors from his homeland and allows him to flex the pizza-perfecting skills he learned while at Same Old Place in Jamaica Plain, where he worked for nearly 20 years before venturing on his own.
He ran his first restaurant, named Mario’s Pizza, in Roxbury to rave reviews for a few years, before closing in 2022. This latest spot is similar to that previous menu, but streamlined to just its greatest hits: Pizzas, calzones, and salads.
As for why he cut items like salt cod croquettes that are popular bar snacks in Portugal and a tasty sandwich of white-wine marinated pork cutlet based on his mother’s recipe from his previous menu, the new spot is smaller than his last and lacks a large cooking line. The decision was a blessing in disguise, though. “I’m basically focusing what I know best, which is pizza, and going from there,” Bailote says.
Bailote’s pizza dough ferments for at least three days and comes out of the oven on the thinner side, with a satisfying crunch. Find some unusual toppings on the menu, like pickled vegetables often served in small dishes alongside meals at Portuguese tables. Customers can choose their own toppings or trust Bailote and stick with the twelve curated pizzas on offer, including the popular classic margarita with fresh mozzarella and basil, plus the Grego, with mozzarella, feta, Kalamata olives, spinach and oregano. Pizzas topped with meat include the Portuguesa with imported spicy chouriço sausage, onion, green peppers, and garlic, plus the piri-piri chicken. That pie features both red sauce and Maçarico piri piri sauce, a complex and flavorful sauce with a heat that dissipates as you eat.
Bailote hand-picked the toppings himself after lots of trial and error. “It took me like ten different types of Kalamata olives until I found the right ones with the right taste,” he says. “Not too acidic, not too much vinegar.”
It’s a kind of attention to detail he says isn’t common in every pizza spot — “I don’t know, maybe because I’m Portuguese and we’re very high food critics,” he says with a laugh — and explains why folks in the neighborhood are already raving about his pies. Three calzones (mozzarella, ricotta, and parm), plus three salads (mixed green, Greek, and one topped with imported Portuguese tuna) round out the menu.
That focus on quality over quantity is true for dessert, too. Bailote showcases just a single sweet, the traditional Portuguese pastel de nata, which is an egg tart with a flaky pastry shell. He imports the goodies from the suburbs of Lisbon and finishes them off in the oven. “They come out nice and crispy and it feels like I’m in Lisbon. I just need the view and an espresso,” he says. Come in early for the confection, as he often sells out.
Mario’s is located at 8 Perkins Street in Jamaica Plain. It is open Tuesdays through Thursdays from 4 to 9:30 p.m., Fridays from noon to 9:30 p.m., and Saturdays from 4 to 9:30 p.m. Head to the website to order for pickup, or order delivery via Door Dash.