Maybe I should start with a point of nomenclature: this fine Italian restaurant on the northern outskirts of State College, Pennsylvania, was called Mario & Luigi's when we moved to State College seven years ago, but now it is simply called Mario's. Luigi has left the building, quite literally. I don't know why.
But whatever the restaurant's name, it provides good Italian food in a pleasant and stylish setting at reasonable prices. The décor -- white walls, white tablecloths, pictures and engravings from Italy -- is suitable and atmospheric. The servers, many of whom are students at nearby Penn State University, are energetic, conscientious, and cheerful. (The restaurant is far enough away from Penn State that, aside from the servers, there is not much of a collegiate atmosphere to the place.) The menu includes a list of seasonal specialties, but I find that I usually go to a selection of familiar favorites, such as the rotisserie half chicken (the house specialty), the veal parmigiana, and the scallops al Mario. Good Italian wines like pinot grigio and chianti classico are available by the glass. The desserts are very fine; I particularly like the cheesecake. Mario's is a very fine place to go with friends, or to enjoy a leisurely dinner before seeing a show at Eisenhower Auditorium.
Mind you, I still don't know whatever happened to Luigi. I also don't know if the original name had to do with Mario and Luigi being the names of characters in the old Donkey Kong video game, or if some other cultural referent is responsible. But whatever the reason for Luigi's departure, Mario is doing just fine without him. Mario's is a good and well-run Italian restaurant that gives you your money's worth and provides for a pleasant evening out.
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