Goodbye, Mario’s. Hello, Harvest

The rumors careening around town are true: Mario’s is being sold.

The legendary restaurant/bar — a Saugatuck mainstay since 1967 — will change hands soon. A new name, cuisine and interior will follow. The deal could be finalized tomorrow morning.

New owners Kleber, Nube and Vicente Siguenza own 5 restaurants in Fairfield and New Haven Counties (including 55 Degrees in Fairfield).

Mario's: A Westport legend.

Mario’s: A Westport legend.

Mario’s will remain as it is for the next year. It will then transform into Harvest Wine Bar — similar to the Siguenzas’ restaurant of the same name in Greenwich. Harvest offers modern American custom cuisine with Asian, Latin and Mediterranean influences, plus an extensive wine list. Harvest supports local, organic farms.

Mario’s — the official name was Mario’s Place, but no one called it that — was opened by Frank “Tiger” DeMace and Mario Sacco. Its across-from-the-train-station location was perfect for commuters looking for a drink and dinner. Wives picking up their husbands stopped in too.

Marios logoMario’s quickly became a beloved family restaurant. Its menu — featuring enormous steaks, popular Italian dishes and large salads — seldom changed. Neither did the comfortable, homey decor. That was part of its charm.

For nearly 50 years Mario’s has been Westport’s go-to place to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and promotions — or commiserate over job losses and divorces.

Mario died in 2009.

Tiger died in 2012. His daughter Lori now co-owns Mario’s, with her brother Dominic DeMace.

“My father told us to keep it for a year, but not worry about having to sell it,” Lori said this afternoon. “The restaurant was his journey, not ours.”

Frank "Tiger" DeMace

Frank “Tiger” DeMace

It’s been 3 years since Tiger’s death. Lori and her husband Fletcher have a 6-year-old daughter.

“It’s time,” Lori said. “I love Mario’s — the customers, the staff — but times have changed. It was a long, hard decision. But my father didn’t make us feel we had to keep it.”

Rumors have swirled for years that all of Railroad Place — with Mario’s smack in the middle — will be torn down, as part of Saugatuck’s Phase III renewal.

Lori and Dominic own the Mario’s building. The Siguenzas will operate Harvest on a long-term lease.

The rest of Railroad Place is owned by a different landlord. What will actually happen across from the station is pure speculation.

Meanwhile — 3.5 miles north — other rumors have the Red Barn being sold to the Westport Family Y.

The Y did not comment.

Marios placemat

43 responses to “Goodbye, Mario’s. Hello, Harvest

  1. Diane h silfen

    It will be missed. Lots of good memories

  2. Dan,
    Thank you! For your accurate account of the details.

  3. can you post a clean high-resolution scan (jpg or pdf) of a Mario’s placemat? it would be fun to laminate as a memento…..have done same with Sherwood Diner & Black Duck……..WHS could sell them in their shop, too.

  4. Bobbie Herman

    There goes the neighborhood. Is nothing sacred?

  5. Hello families of Frank and Mario.. How about leaving us a historical cookbook so we can keep Mario’s in our hearts and kitchens! I’m already planning a family re-union meal with meatball grinders. At least you gave us time for a last supper! A great run..

  6. Megan Acquino Slingo

    Wishing Lori, Dominic & Family All the best!! What makes it sad is the Memories…such good times for Sooooo many years…Countless family birthdays or celebrations..I remember it was one of the first restaurants I brought both my daughters too when they were babies…and I will seriously miss Frank’s Special Chicken…who knew you could mourn over a chicken dish!!…It’s hard to put into words…..Thanks For the Memories!!!

  7. Susan Hopkins

    Sad to see Mario’s fade to black. The end of an era. A most happy era.

  8. It was a favorite place of Paul Newman’s among many other celebrities when they were in town. It will be missed!

  9. Russell Beitman

    Simply very sad! can’t say anymore

  10. JIll Turner Odice

    So many memories of dinners, cocktails and fun we shared there. It will be sad to see it go, but I wish the best for the new guys ! Hope they will be as great as Marios always was…They have big shoes to fill 🙂

  11. Michael Calise

    Its been the living room of so many for so long – will be missed

  12. Okay, this is just another thing that is so thoroughly saddening… I grew up in Westport and moved away a long time ago but there are certain things that just aren’t supposed to change or go away… Main Street is unrecognizable, the Pizzeria moved, now Mario’s closing and possibly the Red Barn? Seriously? I had my engagement party there… Westport just isn’t going to be Westport any more without these landmarks. Sorry newbies, you are killing us sentimental original locals. Just sayin’… And now, I will get off my soapbox.

  13. Great memories! Old school Westport is starting to fade to black!

  14. Mario’s was my office, my conference room, my dining room and my decompression place. Practically wrote a business plan at their bar while I was looking for a site to open a business back in the 70s. It’s no wonder we chose Westport for our first location. Sorry to see a piece of what makes Westport Westport disappear. Best of luck to the family, thanks for the memories.

  15. Eric Isotalo

    Hey! I know! How ’bout a Starbucks?!

  16. Sean Petersen

    Worked there as a busboy with my brother and other friends while in HS. Sad to see it go, will definitely have to stop in soon one last time.

  17. Jesse Daignault

    I never post, but to me, losing Mario’s is a loss to family traditions and WESTPORT history. My in-laws, the Allen family first brought me to Mario’s in the early 90’s when they welcomed me into their family and it was clear Mario’s held a special place in their hearts where they brought together their 10 children and their growing families for the past 30+ years. My wife and I have continued the tradition of family dinners at Mario’s bringing our children and extended family together in one of Westport’s last standing institutions that reflects the small town, Italian heritage of our community. Just last week we brought my brother, nephew and sister in law who are visiting from Portland Oregon to our favorite Westport haunt to enjoy the casual and unpretentious atmosphere, the rich history and old school Italian fare. Thank you Lori for keeping it alive after your fathers passing. In the famous words of Jack Allen, who introduced us to the Mario’s, “It was our private club, which happened to be open to the public”. Thank you for the memories!

  18. The best prime rib! My wife claims she grew up on Frank’s Special Chicken.

  19. Don’t forget Viva’s….it has died and been resuscitated many times, and is hanging strongly. Thank God for those spots that allow us to still actively reminisce.

  20. I love Franks special chicken!!! And the mozzarella en carozza!!!! And the delmonico steak and the gorgonzola salad!!!!! Noooooooo!!!!!

  21. Rebecca Tobin

    I never ever post, but just had to say this is TERRIBLE news…such a loss for Westport =( !!!

  22. no one will miss Marios like my family and myself- we have been servicing Marios for 50 years- my father took the first order on a match book cover
    everybody new the prime rib came from Walter,and flocked in to eat this
    and we got so much business from word of mouth- i cant say enough for what this family did for mine– on to the next journey
    thank you for everything

  23. So sad to hear Mario’s is closing its doors when I lived in Westport went there often. When my father passed away we had Mario’s cater it when my mom tried to pay Mario said absolutely not.

  24. Roberta Tager

    Wise men know….. Looking forward and moving on is part of life’s stream. Yes. There is a bit of sadness with nostalgia, OUCH .

  25. Suzanne Romano-Patafio

    I moved away from my home town of Westport in the late 70’s. I’ve lived in CA, and currently live in North Idaho. However, Westport, more importantly Saugatuck, will always be my home. I am saddened by the news of Mario’s closing. My mother, Bette Romano, worked there for a few years, before she died. My father, Boz, Joe Romano, who is also gone, was very close friends with both Mario and Tiger, whom we also used to call “Meatballs”. Some of my favorite times happened there. I remember when Frank Milazzo used to one the little store next to Mario’s and the was a little jewelry store owed by Shadow, this great little Italian man. I ate in this restaurant many, many times back in the day, my husband of 42 years and I celebrated our engagement there. I will miss knowing that this restaurant will no longer exist, along with all of the people who once spent much of their fun gathering time there. Great food, great times. With love and memories,
    Suzanne Romano-Patafio

  26. I’m retired and living in Naples Fl where restaurants are everywhere. What is missing is a restarant like Marios – nothing pretentious, just good food and good times and a vibe that this place is your place. Good luck to the “Marios” family and the new owners.

  27. I am still mourning the loss of The Arrow al these years later and now Mario’s. Heartbreaking,

  28. William Adler

    This is a disaster for Westport. No way around it. File it with Manero’s and the Arrow. Very, very sad news. I wish someone could step in and run it essentially as it is, keep the staff, etc…

  29. Chip Strphens - Staples 73

    How bizarre that the iconic train stop home of many “madmen” on their return home to Willoughby fades to black as the story, of our 60’s Madmen fathers, fades and ends its series run. Also the infamous reference of the dark and smoky bar where many execs ended their bar car ride in the “Happy Hooker” will become trivia question unanswerable when a reader questions where such a place existed.
    Mario and Tiger your legacy will live on in our memories !

  30. Giselle McGuire Hauser

    Wow, another local icon to become a distant memory….joining The Arrow, Porky Manero’s, The Clam Box, the Bridge Grill, Derosa’s…….the list goes on and on. Progress and the passage of time are so bittersweet sometimes. Thanks Mario and Frank for what you created for us all.

  31. dawn Burriesci

    I echo the sadness at Mario’s closing – over 40 years ago my Dad was a bartender there – he would take me on Tuesdays and let me sit at the bar and I had the Chicken Cacciatore that he deboned for me (still one of the few places that serve it on the bone) and had a shirly temple. My dad died when i was 6 and i dont have too many memories – this was one of the few. I was just thinking the other day of what i wanted to do for my 50th in July and had picked this place – Corny as it sounds – i have tears in my eyes writing this. Thanks for the memories…

  32. Adam Orloski

    Its trouble what money makes people do. Selling something that was beloved in Westport and towards the people that worked there. I only feel bad for the people that still work there and Frank (Tiger) and Mario that built something for the bottom up, just to be torn down. Heart Breaking…..

  33. Steve Erkle III

    Out with the old and in with the new. Surprised it wouldn’t be made into a Swankie Frankies. Anyways, so long.

  34. Toni-Ann M Andronaco

    Spent the first 31 years of my life in Westport. I’m sad to see Mario’s has been sold and will become Harvest. I had my 18th birthday there with my highschool friends. The Saugatuck area of Westport is near and dear to my heart. The transformation Westport is taking makes me sick. It’s going to lose its charm and heart and keep people like me from moving back and raising my family there. Westport can progress into the 21st century without losing its landmarks and charm. And the rumor that the Y is going to buy The Red Barn makes me sick. I was against the Y moving to exit 41 and I am against more Y… Why must they buy up more land!?!

  35. linda (pomerantz) novis

    Adding my own good memories here of Mario’s from forty years ago,when myself & John Mehegan played piano in Dameon’s,next door to Mario’s.. a great place with great people & great food.. (I still remember the burgers..:-)

  36. Billie Przybylski

    I am from Dallas, TX and was a big fan of the Bannerman series. Big treat to have lunch at Mario’s – specifically at the Bannerman table. The older I get, the more I see change.

  37. It’s been eons, but I think the WHS Hockey team had a function or two there. Remember Wilton was a dry town in those days….but I have to say that was a long time ago. My best for the new owners, and may they keep the place open for many a more…

  38. Sad news …One the first jobs I had was bussing tables back in the late 70’s…Tommy “Moose” Mustaka the Maitre d’ was my unlce…Over the years Great times

  39. sandy johnson

    At least all of “older” residents have many happy memories of Mario’s and the many, many meals we have eaten there!!! When Imoved to Ct, my then husband worked in the city – so very often when I met him at the train – off to Mario’s we went!!! Many years later with my second husband – we also often there. It seems Westport has been having a lot of “changes” going on from the long ago once simple small town it was! Life goes on!