Mario’s Bakery, Fall River – A Middle Eastern Vacation

Just so there is no confusion out there…naming this road trip, the Quahog Chronicles, has way more to do with WHERE to road trip is (Up the coast of Southern New England) than WHAT we ate. Sure, we ate a lot of quahogs, but not at every meal. Like not at this one, for example:
We were driving right through Fall River, MA, which has a huge Portuguese population, but did you know it also has quite a substantial Lebanese population?
Me either! Thanks to a few food-centric friends, I was directed to Mario’s for a quick stop through the Middle East.
*We were 45 minutes away from the spot when I called and asked what time they closed – half an hour. Upon hearing how disappointed I was, Maroun offered to keep the store opened for an extra 20 minutes for us. This was without my mentioning I would review him or him even knowing if I would show. This was just because he wanted someone new to experience his food and the love he has for his culture’s culinary identity. He didn’t have to stay open – we certainly weren’t buying mass quantities of food – but for Mario, it wasn’t all about the money. This is the kind of place that we, as food lovers MUST patronize to ensure they stay in business with all the big boys. Ok, now off soapbox and back to food porn*
The scents of fresh baking bread, cinnamon and garlic all greeted us as we entered the tiny store.
Luckily, Mario had a mop on hand to wipe up the drool that dribbled out of my mouth.
It aint’ fancy, and you KNOW how I feel about that…
LOVE IT!
 Just a brick oven, a fridge full of dough to go, a few Lebanese seasonings and ingredients for sale and…
 Lots of these fabulous meat filled pies. They were incredibly cheap and…
incredibly delicious!

The dough was reminiscent of slightly thicker pizza dough-floury, yeasty, a bit chewy and with excellent hole structure. The meat was fragrant, spicy, sweet and just freakin delicious. Cinnamon, cardamom, red pepper, oregano…who the hell KNOWS what was in there? It was incredibly complex – way more intricate than shwarma, yet not at all greasy or heavy. It was – dare I say – light? It was meaty and satisfying, but that was it. Not too heavy, not too spicy, just perfectly balanced. If you like Moroccan or Middle Eastern food, you will simply LOVE this.
I mean, I loved 4 of them.  
And that was before I loved this dessert bread. The same slightly sour, pliant dough laden with nutty sesame seeds and lashings of sweet honey. Sweet, nutty, doughy…what sounds wrong with that sentence?
 Nothing, according to my sister.
My favorite bread was a shocker – the freebie that Maroun gave us for all of our enthusiasm. This was simply bread covered in the house blended za’atar. All I have to say is…
WHAT THE HECK KIND OF CARDBOARD SHAVINGS HAVE I BEEN EATING ALL THIS TIME?
NEVER have I had za’atar like this. One bite kicked me in the face and practically jettisoned me to the Dead Sea, Lebanon and all other places Middle East. It was incredibly aromatic, almost like a savory perfume (not like rosewater though…HATE rosewater), and there was a powerful citrus taste that really made the bread wheatier and the sesame seeds meatier. Not at all salty or spicy, but with that evasive, mouthwatering flavor known as umami, it was just impossible to stop eating. It begged only for a tiny bit of the yogurt that Mario sold. 
Can’t believe I didn’t buy that yogurt when I had the chance.
Sometimes, I hate myself.
But I sure as hell don’t hate Mario’s! This place is run by the kindest lover of food who just can’t wait to share his cultural legacy with you via meat pies and other goodies. It is cheap, it is delicious, and it is the type of place that…well you know where I am going with this.
You have to support it…you just have to. They deserve to stay open.

And you deserve to see some more quahogs on these Quahog Chronicles!
With that, we continue northward…

Comments

  1. Hungry says:

    Your chronicles in NE is making me harass my man for a summer road trip.

  2. Fritos and Foie Gras says:

    @Hungry-omg do it! So many more delicious places are open in the summer, too – all lobster and steamers!!!

  3. Sarah says:

    This is literally the food I grew up on. Wish you got to go to Sam's Bakery too – they are my family's favorite!!

  4. whozyerdanny says:

    Thanks for taking us on this trip, ammmazing!

  5. Fritos and Foie Gras says:

    @Sarah-they were closed the day we went!! Stupid Mondays…next time I am DEF going there!
    @whozyerdanny-my PLEASURE daaahling ;)

  6. Teresa says:

    I've only been going to Mario's for a month but I can tell you it's much better than Sam's. Sam's is too much black pepper (It takes a ton of pepper for me to think it's too much), too much sour/bitter, too much grease. There's a huge difference between olive oil and grease. :D I would eat at Mario's every day if I didn't think my enthusiasm would turn creepy eventually. I'm an ardent foodie myself and I'm totally loving your blog.

  7. Fritos and Foie Gras says:

    @Teresa-I am a huge pepper fan too, so if you think there is too much, I would have to heed your expertise. So glad that you are liking the blog!!!

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