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Mario’s Italian Restaurant: A Dining Experience Like No Other

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marios-tyler-tx-eguide-1Written and Photographed by Barbara King

Old world charm and ambience is what you’ll feel the minute you walk in the door. Pair it with the most charming and effusive owners who make everyone feel like family, and you will know you are in for a rare dining treat.

Veronique and Mo Rezaei have owned Mario’s Italian Restaurant and Club since 1997, and have over the years built it into a tradition in Tyler, which is evident tonight as guests arrive, are called by name, hugged, and steered towards their favorite dining tables.

Tonight, the restaurant is an oasis from the work week, and you could literally be in any big city in the world. The walls are plastered with iconic movie stills and posters, tabletops adorned with checkered cloths and glittering candles, while the strains of Frank Sinatra play in the background.

As Mo meets and seats diners, he says, “We treat everyone like friends and family, not customers.” As he stops to check on a table, Mo runs over to the fully stocked bar to pick out a special bottle of wine he recommends.

Cue the singer up front (live music Friday and Saturday nights), laughter and conversation, followed by fantastic food, and it’s evident why folks keep coming back.

marios-tyler-tx-eguide-3Elaine and Roy Crawford make it a date every Friday night, and since coming to Tyler 12 years ago, have made their end of the week dinner at Mario’s a tradition. “We love the great wait staff and service and everybody knows us by name,” explained Roy. “The food portions are large,” added Elaine, “and we always have plenty to take home for lunch the next day.” The live music and ambience is unique they add, “and it’s the most authentic Italian food within 50 miles. We just love everything about Mario’s.”

The family run restaurant prides itself on authentic Neapolitan cuisine, and the menu is extensive. Appetizer selections are tempting including bruschetta, sautèed mushrooms, fried zucchini, calamari, and jalapeños stuffed with cheddar cheese. Dinners are served with salad and their delectable, crunchy house bread, with olive oil and seasonings for dipping, Of course, there is pasta galore, including spaghetti and linguine, eggplant parmigiana, fettuccine, lasagna, cannelloni, and fettuccine Alfredo.

marios-tyler-tx-eguide-4We’re not done yet…shrimp and chicken delicacies include chicken marsalas, chicken piccata, shrimp Alfredo, shrimp marinara, scampi, and parmigiana. Veal lovers can take their pick from veal parmigiana, Milanese, marsalas, or piccata.

The chef’s specialties are a rich presentation of entrées including blackened snapper, chicken tetrazzini, rib-eye, shrimp primavera and chicken broccoli Alfredo. And don’t forget their out-of-this world pizzas made to order, with toppings including pepperoni, mushrooms, sausage, hamburger, onions, black olives, anchovies, jalapeños, and green peppers.

This evening, every table is full, and kids are scampering around, one family saying that their kids couldn’t wait to say “hi to Mo.” Kids are taken well care of too, with a special Bambini menu all their own, with lasagna, spaghetti, fettuccine Alfredo and manicotti in kids’ size portions.

Veronique advises that reservations be made on the weekends for parties of six or more, “so we can take good care of you.” Mario’s caters too, with a buffet-style setup, so with their help, a unique menu can be set and delivered with a few days notice.

marios-tyler-tx-eguide-2Mario’s has a private party room, Laila’s Room, named for one of their three grown children, that can seat up to 30 people for special occasions and events. “We have been the spot for so many proposals, anniversaries, birthday parties, and other life events,” said Veronique. “We have been lucky enough to see a few generations of families celebrate their lives with us.”

Greg and Jennifer Samsa, from Tyler, are enjoying a dinner date night, and, “have been to Mario’s more than twenty times. We love the atmosphere, the fantastic food choices, and the fact that you know that your meal will be perfect each and every time,” said Greg. “You feel like it’s a special evening out, but the prices are reasonable, and the portion sizes are great,” he added.

Not only are the returning clientele a testament to the restaurant, they also have wait staff that are truly family as well. Afshin Khalatbari has been with the restaurant for 35 years, and as he holds the door open and wishes patrons a good night, he says, “It’s all about the people we meet and the relationships we build.”

Yvonne and Kent Sturrock call themselves “frequent flyers” at Mario’s and are here tonight to celebrate the 33rd wedding anniversary of their cousins, Russ and Aris Obar. “We always run into friends here,” said Yvonne. “It is always a lot of fun, we love the music, and of course, Mo and Veronique.” Mo is invited over for a picture, warm wishes for the anniversary couple and hugs all around.

You can’t beat Mario’s for a taste of old world charm and days gone by.

Mario’s is located at 7916 South Broadway in Tyler and is open Monday- Thursday 5-9:30pm, Friday and Saturday 5-10:30pm. For reservations, catering or private party bookings, call (903)581-2309 or find them on Facebook at Mario’s Italian Restaurant and Club.

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Around East Texas

Festival of Fruit: 34th Annual Tomato Fest Saturday, June 9th

34th Annual Tomato Fest Saturday, June 9th

Welcome to Jacksonville – home of the best tasting fruit – tomatoes!

Local farmers are busy getting ready for the upcoming 34th Annual Tomato Fest in Jacksonville, Texas by planting acres of the best tastin’ tomatoes. Join the celebration Saturday, June 9th in downtown Jacksonville for a BIG day of activities that will be happening all day long. Over 200+ vendors and all kinds of festival food, including the famous fried green tomatoes, Farmers Market, $500 Got Talent Contest, Car Show, Motorcycle Show, Tennis Tournament, Soccer Tournament, Softball Tournament, Entertainment, Kidz Zone, and so much more will cover 5 blocks downtown. Tomato events include Salsa Contest, Tomato Eating and Peeling Contest, Tomato Archery, Tomato Shoot, Best Home Grown Tomato Contest, Tomato Packing Contest and tour the Tomato Shed. Saturday evening, Chili’s Street Dance will take place featuring Brian Chance Band and Lady Chazz and the Tramps. 

Activities kick off on Saturday, June 2nd with a 5k run sponsored by All Smiles. Monday, June 4th and Tuesday, June 5th is Family First Clinic’s corporate challenge Dodgeball Tournament. On Wednesday, June 6th, a Gospel Concert sponsored by Whataburger featuring, The Group, will perform at Central Baptist Church. New this year on Thursday, June 8th  is the Farm to Table dinner event that will take place at Castle on the Lake on beautiful Lake Jacksonville and will be catered by Rob Gowin, Sadler’s Kitchen & Catering. A 4 Man Scramble takes place at the Cherokee Ranch Golf Club on Friday, June 8th. The final Tomato Fest week celebration ends at Lake Jacksonville with a Ski Show on Sunday, June 10th.

Taste for yourself the best tomatoes and fun festival packed with lots to do for everyone.  For additional information, contact Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce at (903)586-2217, or go to  JacksonvilleTexas.com/Tomato-Fest or Facebook.com/JacksonvilleChamber.

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Fitness

East Texans Learn to “Live Healthy”

This Month at Integrative Health Matters:

Integrative Health Matters offers a healthy alternative to losing weight.

“Food is the real medicine. Through our innovative, hands-on programs, we aim to inspire healthy change through education. Diseases, chronic conditions, inflammation, and immune system disorders are often attributed to diet. Food is the medicine that can fix the problem. Integrative Health Matters is lifestyle medicine. It’s not about drugs and doctor’s appointments. It’s about how to eat right, how to think right, and to understand all the things we have to do to stay healthy,” said neurosurgeon Guy Danielson, medical director and founder of Integrative Health Matters. “This is root cause (medicine), not covering up symptoms with something from the pharmacy. The pharmacy is out in the garden.”

The public has opportunities to visit Integrative Health Matters at any of these classes:

  • Every Wednesday (12:15-1:15pm) – Mindful Movements ; (5:15-6:15pm) – “Just Breathe” Meditation
  • May 4th (10-11am) – Functional Food Friday: Detoxing
  • May 8th (6-7:30pm) – Kitchen Talk: Tabbouleh with Karol
  • May 11th (10-11am) – Functional Food Friday: Eating Seasonally
  • May 21st (6-7:30pm) – The Good News About Type 2 Diabetes
  • May 22nd (6-7:30pm) – Kitchen Talk: Raising Healthy Eaters
  • May 25th (10-11am) – Functional Food Friday: Eating Healthy on a Budget

Cooking classes offered twice monthly are in-depth health and cooking presentations. These “Kitchen Talks” invite the public into the IHM instructional kitchen to learn to cook tasty and nutritious meals and create a healthy home environment.

Integrative Health Matters is located at 419 WSW Loop 323 #400 in Tyler, next to La Madeleine. For information about Integrative Health Matters, contact (903)595-8077 or visit ihm.life.

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Around East Texas

Pure Bliss at M6 Winery

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M6 Winery:

Celebrating Life & Good Things

Written and Photographed by Barbara Greenbauer

Take some time to wind down, breathe, and enjoy a superb glass of wine at M6 Winery & Tasting Room and Gift Shop in downtown Bullard. Owners Joe and Anne Moody set the pace as the charming and affable owners who greet you at the door and welcome you inside.

The atmosphere is palatable the minute you arrive, inside the front door is a Texas trove of hand-made one of a kind wood pieces that can either house your own wine collection or accent it. Move along into the inner room and you will feel right at home as you order wine, food, and listen to live music.

Joe Moody is in his element and passionate about his foray into the wine business. Relying on his business background and his interest in the wine-making industry, he has developed an inventory of his own, a grand selection of whites and reds that will be taste bud treats to either the wine connoisseur or novice.

“Wine is about celebrating life and the good things,” explains Moody. “Anne and I have traveled from California to Italy and experienced multitudes of vineyards and tasting rooms.  We were ready to bring all of our experiences to East Texas.” M6 derives its name from the Moody’s family of six, including the four grown children who were a piece of the business from its infancy. M6 Winery & Tasting Room is nestled on a corner of downtown Bullard, a piece of property Joe Moody has owned for over 20 years that has served as his office for both an oil/gas and real estate business over the years.

“Creating a good wine is an act of love and patience,” explains Moody. “Grapes cannot be rushed and in the process, you have to be aware of what you are looking for in a flavor profile. It takes a lot of planning and preparation; blending is like art with different aromas, colors, and flavors.”

The tasting room is an experience in itself, from the beautiful front and center bar fashioned from the ribs of wine barrels to the tin roof and rough cedar ceiling accents. Choose your wine and sit back while local musicians entertain.

There’s another great space outside that the Moody’s affectionately call The Vinery, a vine-covered patio with plenty of room and great furniture to sit on while you  enjoy the Texas weather.

Your palette will applaud you when you sample an M6 original wine. White wines include the Blue Norther, an aromatic semi-sweet Riesling with hints of apples and stone fruit. The Bluebonnet is an off-dry white blend, perfect for poultry, fish, and pasta dishes. Or try the Sweet TexAnne, named for Mrs. Moody, with sweet honeysuckle and strawberry overtones. This wine is perfect for summer salads and cheeses and is sweet enough to serve as a light dessert wine.

The Texas Viognier is an unoaked, medium to full-bodied dry wine, with notes of pears, honeysuckle, and tangerine. It pairs well with roasted poultry, orange chicken, seafood, apricots, fennel, capers, or pumpkin.

M6’s Rosé wines include the Blushing Texan, a semi-sweet Rosé wine blend with a light pink color. The appropriately monikered Tyler Rosé is a dry blend with a touch of High Plains Zinfandel. This blend was created especially for our local Tyler market and its famous association with roses.

If red is more your thing, there are lots to choose from. Friendship Red is made with the hearty Ruby Cabernet grape. It is a great compliment to all things pasta, as it goes great with all sauces, from marinara to Alfredo.

The Moodys very first Signature Blend is Vintner’s Touch, a bold red blend that pairs well with roasted meats. This blend is made from grapes grown both in Texas and California.

Red Texana is great with Texas BBQ or Tex-Mex dishes. It is full-bodied and made from the Ruby Cabernet grape. It has a spicy finish.

Feel free to pair your wine with meat, cheese, or combo plates, olive oil with bread and spices, or a slider plate. Paired flights include a chocolate or cheese, and of course, you can do a Tasting Flight of five different wines and keep the signature M6 tasting glass. M6 wines range from an affordable $18 to $28 a bottle.

Be part of the family and join the M6 Wine Club to experience the best of their offerings with five special wine shipments annually. When it’s time to get your selections, M6 offers a complimentary glass of wine and hors d’oeuvres to members at pickup parties.

M6 can host your private party and create personalized wine labels to commemorate any event from birthdays to anniversaries.

Joe has nothing but compliments for the wine-growing community in East Texas, saying “We are all very supportive of each other and share resources and information.”

Mark your calendars for the Piney Woods Wine Festival, running May 11th-12th and join M6 and the other 18 wineries on the trail for a spectacular weekend of music, art, and of course, lots of wine to taste.

Lauren and Bobby Grounds from Tyler wanted a new destination and searched the internet for wine and live music and found M6. “We love this venue,” said Lauren. “It’s very different and fun, and the wine is fantastic.” They were trying the Blue Norther and the Blushing Texan with a cheese plate and Billy said “We will definitely be back. We like the atmosphere here.  It’s very welcoming.”

Joe is thrilled that M6 wines are featured at favorite Tyler restaurants, including Rotolo’s, Dakotas, and the Grove. “Mention that you would like to try an M6 wine and you won’t be disappointed,” he said.

The Moodys welcome you to experience M6 Winery & Tasting Room. “We want everyone who visits us to feel like they are our honored guest,” said Joe Moody.

M6 is open Saturdays from 1-6:30pm and is located at 201 W. Main St., Bullard. They can be reached at (903)360-0369, by email at info@m6winery.com, or on Facebook at M6Winery.

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