The new owners of Mario's Restaurant are the old owners of Mario's Restaurant.
Barbara and Pat Underwood, who first opened the restaurant in 1977, will reopen the Payson favorite July 22.
"We got the restaurant back from the Conti family after they just sort of threw in the towel," Barbara said. "We just decided to remind the community of what a beautiful building it is. It's got plenty of banquet rooms, and the community really needs that. Groups like the Lions Club, Rotary, they need the meeting areas. So we're just going to do it again. We're excited."
Joining the Underwoods will be Ron Lanese, Barbara's father, who is also one of the restaurant's original owner/operators.
"He is coming back to help cook," Barbara said. "The three of us opened the first Mario's in 1977 in the building where Macky's Grill is now. After that, we moved into the Mandarin House building and stayed there for 7 years. And then we took over the (Mario's Borgata) building on Highway 260 in 1985."
The Underwoods and Lanese sold the business to the Conti family in 1995, and expected to be out of it for good. But when the Conti's left and the building sat empty for several months, the Underwoods felt they had no choice but to give it a new life.
To that end, they are scouring, repainting and redesigning the interior, and installing an all-concrete parking lot.
"We've hired a second chef and kitchen manager, Danny Nu to help us offer more American entrees," Underwood said. "While we'll pretty much stick with the Italian-American menu, we're going to run a lot of different specials, maybe do a regular Mexican night, things like that. We're going to try a lot of new things to find out what our customers want when they come to Mario's."
Something else that will be different "will thrill some people and not others," Underwood conceded. "The restaurant will be totally non-smoking, so smokers will have to go outside. We're at least going to try that, to see how it works."
Mario's Restaurant is at 600 E. Highway 260 in Mario's Borgata. Food will be served seven days a week, Mondays through Thursdays from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Fridays through Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. The lounge will remain open beyond the restaurant hours. Menu prices for both lunch and dinner will tentatively range from $3.50 to $20.
For more information, call Mario's at 474-5429.