Lasagna is $4.50, a rib eye is $8.50 and eggs are available all day and any way for only $3.50.
There are no bookings available, so you may have to queue for a spot at the venue’s white-linen-clothed tables.
“People have met their wives and husbands here, and there have been many marriage proposals,” says Mario Maccarone, who co-founded the Brunswick Street favourite with business partner Mario De Pasquale. “I also know of a few divorces where one of the partners ‘gets Mario’s’ and the other can no longer come here!”
“Back in the day we were considered groundbreaking and cutting edge,” says Maccarone. “Today, youngsters come in and tell me they love the place because it’s so old school.”
The event, 10 months in planning, was inspired by a trip to Holland. Maccarone went with a local friend to a cafe on New Year’s Day. The owners opened for regulars – and interlopers like Maccarone – who came in for a free, buffet-style meal, served by the owners themselves. They do it every year.
It echoes the kind of generosity and warmth that the two Marios have attempted to instill in their establishment since day one.
“We wanted to do inexpensive, good-quality Italian food that was accessible. Back in the ’80s, there were a lot of ‘occasion’ places – expensive places where you might go once a year,” says Maccarone. “But not many places you could go to once a week, or even twice a week. We wanted to be that place.”
The two of them, who Maccarone says “have a great business partnership”, still enjoy working on the floor and have developed strong bonds with their customers.
They both still visit the Queen Victoria Market every week to source interesting ingredients (goat, rabbit, fresh sardines).
On the cafe’s birthday, both Marios will be there from opening, at 7am, to close, at 10.30pm. They expect to be busy, and have rostered all of their employees for the occasion.
When asked why they’ve lasted so long, when so many others have come and gone, Maccarone says, “We never worked too hard. You see a lot of burnout in the industry. That was never going to be us.”
Marios will be open from 7am to 10.30pm. Please note that while food and non-alcoholic beverages are taking on 1986 prices, alcohol is not.
303 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
(03) 9417 3343