CLIFTON N.J. — Longtime friends Jim Smith, Steve Cutler and Norm Davidson reunited for the first time in four decades Thursday at a table in Van Houten Avenue’s Mario’s Restaurant.
The three Bloomfield High School graduates hadn’t been together since 1975, when Cutler moved to Las Vegas, and Mario’s seemed to be the only suitable place for a reunion lunch.
“We’re going through a day of nostalgia by doing everything we did 40 years ago,” Smith said. “We had to come here for pizza.”
Mario’s was selected as a top finalist in Daily Voice’s DVlicious Best Pizza in Passaic competition.
Founded by Mario and Emma Barilari in 1945, Mario’s is Clifton’s oldest restaurant and first pizzeria. This year marks its 70th anniversary at its current location, though it first opened across the street in the 1930s.
Longtime customer Tom Daniels, 83, has been coming to Mario's his whole life for the thin-crust pizza. He knew Mario Barilari back when a pie was only $1.60.
"I came in here for meetings and Mario made clams casino for us," Daniels said. "Just like that he threw it in with whatever we ordered because he knew I like clams casino. It was out of this world."
Daniels' girlfriend, Paula, said Mario's hasn't been the same since its change of ownership.
The fond memories of Friday night pizza parties and family dinners, however, is what the couple said keeps them coming back for the sake of "the good old days."
Even though they only met five months ago.
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