Fast Casual Italian?
That is Jimmy Marino’s vision for Marino’s Bistro To Go. The owner of Bistro di Marino in Collingswood opened the first Marino’s Bistro To Go fast casual concept at the Market Place at Garden State Park on Wednesday. It replaced the former Muscle Maker Grill next to Panera. His ultimate plan is to franchise the business.
The tagline is “Real Italian. Real Fast.” It has just about everything you would expect from an Italian eatery, but pretty much everything is pre-made and viewable from a heated buffet-line behind the counter. Some items are cooked separately and they ask that you please allow 10 minutes while they are prepared.
So far, it’s just eat-in or take-out. They are considering their own delivery service or signing up with one of the online food delivery services, but have no timetable for that. They want to see how business goes with eat-in customers first. For eating-in, ordering seemed simple enough. You step up to the cashier at the front of the line, place your order, take a seat and they’ll bring it out to you. Menu’s are available at the cash register and they are happy to help answer your questions about what’s available.
The menu is quite impressive for a “fast casual” restaurant.
The prices are really fair, too.
Soups available daily are: tomato basil, pasta fagioli, and chicken orzo.
Small bites include stuffed long hots, spadini (mozzarella stuffed bread with brandy caper sauce), smoked mozzarella meatballs, mozzarella in carrozza, fried artichokes, eggplant fries and more.
They offer panini-style sandwiches such as “The Giacomo” (prosciutto, soppressata, fresh mozzarella, fresh tomato, arugula, oil and pesto for $7.95), “The Michaelo” (short rib, caramelized onions, shitake mushrooms, sharp provolone, horseradish mayo for $8.95), “The Super Stefano” (garlic bread Italian grilled cheese, crispy prosciutto, smoked mozzarella, sundried tomato pesto, side of vodka sauce for $6.95) and “The Bird” (oven roasted turkey breast, smoked mozzarella sliced tomatoes, fresh spinach, roasted pepper mayo on whole wheat for $7.95). Panini sandwiches are served with your choice of small bistro salad, small tomato soup or rosemary olive oil fries.
For those with a love of South Philly-style sandwiches on Sarcone’s rolls, you won’t be disappointed with the “The Corrado” (pan-fried chicken cutlet, broccoli rabe, sharp provolone), “The Joanna” (smoke mozzarella meatballs, red gracy and Locatelli), “The Franco” (old world sausage, pepper and onion, sharp provolone, red gravy and Locatelli) or the “The Bambina” (prosciutto, soppressata, fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil, arugula and EVOO). Each South Philly-style sandwich is $8.95 and served with your choice of small bistro salad, small tomato soup or rosemary olive oil fries.
Got pasta? Yep! In fact, they offer 14 varieties of pasta dishes. Most are available in two sizes (small and large, I’m guessing) including Penne Vodka ($5.00/$9.95), Orecchietti, Broccoli Rabe & Sausage ($5.95/$10.95), Gnocchi Gorgonzola ($5.95/$10.95), Short Rib Gnocchi ($6.95/$11.95), Lobster Ravioli ($6.95/$11.95), Rigatoni Bolognese ($5.95/$10.95), Seafood Cannelloni ($14.95), Lobster Lasagna ($16.95) to name a few.
Protein entrees are served with a daily vegetable, daily potato or rigatoni with red gravy. Selections include: Chicken Parmigiana ($9.95), Chicken Cacciatore ($9.95), Eggplant Parmigiana ($9.95), Grilled Salmon ($14.95), Roasted Pork Loin ($10.95), Italian Meatloaf ($9.95), Beef Short Rib ($16.95), and a few others.
You can also get entree sized salads such as the Gorgonzola Salad (arugula, gorgonzola cheese, candied walnuts, fresh pear slices, honey white balsamic dressing for $6.95) and “Marino Salad” (romaine, grilled chicken, fresh mozzarella, grape tomatoes, red onion, croutons, oil & vinegar for $8.95).
You can also make your own salad choosing a lettuce (romaine, arugula, spring mix, or fresh spinach), protein (grilled chicken, breaded chicken, turkey or shrimp and up to 4 toppings (they offer over 20 toppings to choose from) with your choice of 10 dressings all for $7.95! Each addition protein costs $1.25 each and additional toppings are $.75 each.
Available sides are rosemary olive oil shoestring fries ($3), basil pesto fries ($3), spinach with garlic and oil ($4), broccoli rabe with garlic and oil ($4), garlic mash ($3), truffle mash ($5), rosemary roasted potatoes ($4) and roasted sweet potatoes ($4).
There’s a kids menu and traditional Italian desserts such as cheesecake, tiramisu, and mini cannolis!
Don’t expect pizzas or flatbreads in the near future. Jimmy wants to stay away from becoming just another pizzeria or fast casual pizza joint, but may consider adding something like it if there is demand for it. In the meantime, he is focused on fast, scrumptious Italian food made with the freshest ingredients. He said it’s likely that changes will come to the menu at some point and will add daily specialties during the week. He’s just getting started and wants to see what works and what doesn’t.
What’s The Verdict?
We tried the “Super Stefano” and “The Corrado” upon our visit for lunch today and both were delicious. They were served within 5 minutes of our ordering on big red plates on top of silver cafeteria-style platters.
The only slight “downside” to this place is even though there is decent lighting, light brick walls, and bright colored seating, it still seemed a bit dark in there. Then again it was a rainy and cloudy day. The space is long and narrow and wedged between other stores so the only natural light is from the front or back entrances. This isn’t necessarily off-putting, but it was worth noting.
We were impressed by the chic modernism of the interior; it’s minimalist approach made us feel like we were in a modern Italian bistro. The soundtrack was smooth; it sounded like contemporary Italian trip-hop to us. Either way, it was good and seemed appropriate for the space.
The restroom signs are fun: for the ladies, “Hey Girl!” and for the guys, “My Man!”
I really think this concept could take off. Because, I mean, who doesn’t like Italian? I’m happy to have a quick taste of South Philly in my new backyard available for lunch or dinner. If you’re in the area, we recommend checking out Marino’s Bistro To Go for quick, tasty Italian meal.
Slideshow of pictures from our visit today are below.
The Doyenne of Dining in Philadelphia and South Jersey.