Opening Friday: Mad Mario’s Italian Deli

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A new Italian eatery called Mad Mario’s Italian Deli opens Friday in the old Asian Sandwich Deli spot at 1710 E. Speedway.

I spoke with owner Mario Johnson yesterday and he bowled me over with his friendliness and sense of humor. The guy is a hoot, and he says his restaurant will be far from a ho-hum deli operation.

“You know that fish market in Seattle where they throw around fish? Here we’re going to be throwing around salamis,” said Johnson. “We are nuts over here.”

As his laughter subsided a bit, Johnson continued: “The concept is Mad Mario’s because I’m a little nuts and I’m a little mad at the economy the way it is, so I had to create my own jobs and jobs for others, too.”

All of the meat and cheeses will be cut to order, and will be available as sandwiches or by the pound. The place is also using bread from La Baguette Bakery, the French bakery at 1797 E. Prince Road.

Chef Aaron Hilliard — who once worked at Sabra Mediterranean Restaurant — has also been brought on board. He’ll be helping with the meat sauces, marinaras, alfredos and other items on the menu.

Johnson worked for the food distribution company Sysco for 22 years, which taught him a thing or two. “You gotta give your customer a sense of value. We keep our prices low and our quality way up. If I need to take a loss to make repeat business, I’m willing to do that.”

Mad Mario's will only offer take-out at first, but seating will be added soon. Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Wednesday; and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Thursday through Saturday. Call 325-3258 for more information.

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