The third chapter of this journey started out with another long drive...about six hours...to Dublin, Ohio for lunch at Martino’s Sports Bar & Grille on Saturday April 6, 2013. It was the first leg of an adventure that would see us visit three “Martino’s” restaurants as well as experience an amazing coincidence, one that is sure to be one of the most interesting stories in this adventure. The restaurants covered in this chapter were all visited while on an east coast odyssey that included Baltimore, Philadelphia and Annapolis.
Martino's Sports Bar & Grill, Dublin, Ohio
At the time, this “Martino’s” was as far away from where we live as any we’d experienced. We knew, however, that it would only retain that distinction for a very short time...less than a week, in fact, as you’ll see if you read on. Dublin is a northwest suburb of Columbus and since we were on I70 passing just under Ohio’s capital, it was really only about an hour off our direct route out east. It was worth the stop and would have been even if we weren’t on this quest.
We arrived just around noon that Saturday and were greeted by Allison who told we could sit anywhere we liked. The dining area surrounds the bar as you would expect at this type of venue but there are two booths at the front window and were lucky enough to get one of those. Owner Mark Martin (Martino was Mark's nickname in high school) passed away in 2007 but his family has kept the business going using Mark’s recipes including the pizza sauce. When we discovered that it was a family recipe, we chose the cheese pizza so the sauce flavor was up front and we could taste it on its own....and it was excellent. Every red sauce associated with the name "Martino" must be special because all the places we’ve visited so far have excelled in that particular niche of their cuisine. We were very pleased to find that the cheese was first rate as well and while we love pizza in all its forms, a simply cheese pizza with a quality cheese and a tasty sauce lays the foundation for any other combinations of toppings and really defines the pizzeria’s quality.
We were also pleased when we found that this “Martino's” restaurant has souvenirs and I was able to buy a t-shirt and visor with their logo. We thank Allison for her hospitality during our visit and since we pass Columbus every time we drive out to see the kids in Annapolis, this may become a regular stop on our journeys. That would be just fine with me.
Mr. Martino's Trattoria, Philadelphia, PA
Philadelphia had been on our radar screen for several years and we knew we would enjoy the historic sites and relics of that city very much. That certainly turned out to be accurate and I hope you will read Carol’s feature in the “Destinations” section of this site which tells the tale.
When I found Mr. Martino’s Trattoria and noticed it was less than a mile from our planned accommodations in Philly, I knew we’d have to arrange for a meal there, even though they’re only open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
I called Mr. Martino’s the Friday before we left to book a table and I spoke with Marc Farnese, the owner and he did indeed confirm that we could have a table the Friday we were in town. They don’t have a website so I wasn’t sure how big the place was. I was pleased to get a reservation.
Carol and I had great weather during the first six days of this vacation but that Friday, it rained off and on all day and it was quite windy and chilly. This prompted us to abandon our plans to walk to the restaurant that evening and we opted for a taxi. Since Mr. Martino’s is a BYOB establishment, we purchased a great Barolo while we were in Baltimore to take that night. Unfortunately, when the taxi arrived at the B&B, we walked out leaving that nice Italian red sitting on the table by the door in our room. We didn’t realize that until we had left the cab and since I didn’t want to go back just for the wine, we went inside and met Marc. I asked if there was a place nearby to purchase a bottle of wine and he directed me to a liquor store “three blocks away”. I guess “blocks” are of a different length in Pennsylvania than they are here in Illinois. I did walk the nearly ¾ mile and back to pick up what turned out to be a great Chianti Classico and we had it with a wonderful meal.
Marc and Maria are wonderful hosts and providers of great food and a great, authentically Italian dining experience. If you’re ever in Philadelphia on the weekend, include Mr. Martino’s on your culinary adventures. Tell Marc that Dan and Carol sent you.
Martino's Trattoria & Pizzeria, Vineland, NJ
After leaving Philadelphia on Saturday, we had one more Martino Quest stop before arriving in Annapolis to see the kids that afternoon. We had found Martino’s Trattoria and Pizzeria in Vineland, New Jersey and since it was within a couple hours of both Philly and Annapolis, we of course added it to our plans for this trip.
Martino’s is open for breakfast so we decided to have “brunch” at the restaurant and arrived around 10:30am. We were greeted by Theresa, our server and were seated at a table in the back of the restaurant, just in front of a beautiful mural of an Italian Villa. The walls of the entire restaurant are covered with these magnificent paintings, done on canvas, commissioned by owner Frank Lasalandra. Frank’s father Martin (or “Martino” in Italian) was the inspiration for the name of this very European style Trattoria and although we just had finger foods that morning, a little research on the Internet provided strong evidence of Martino’s popularity. Noted for providing excellent and authentic Italian cuisine, Frank has also provided an environment that has the feel of actually being in Italy for dinner. We will find a way to get back to Martino’s for an evening meal some time down the road and sample some of their homemade Italian dishes.
Though it was a Saturday and we were told that Frank is typically not around during the day, we were fortunate enough to still be at the restaurant when he stopped in to drop something off that morning. When Theresa told Frank our back story, he was able to spend some time with us and it was during that conversation that we learned that Frank’s family had owned the business for 11 years and that it was Frank that found the artist that painted the beautiful murals.
We’ve certainly been fortunate thus far in this “Martino Quest”. We’ve found some remarkable stories and some wonderful people. Frank Lasalandra is another great example of both. If you’re ever near Vineland, NJ, find a way to have a meal at Martino’s and if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll get to meet Frank or his son whose name is also Martin (Martino). Enjoy the hospitality and let your imagination take you to Torino or Milano for a real Italian meal. Mangia, mangia!
The Wishing Well Public House, Philadelphia, PA
While I’ve loved all the stories around this Martino Quest so far, this one must surely be the best and frankly, it’s hard to imagine anything topping this incredible coincidence.
After we got settled into our digs at the Bella Vista Bed & Breakfast in Philadelphia, as always, we began exploring the area. One of the priorities for me, surprise, surprise, is to find our “local” watering hole so if we want a nightcap after dinner or a pint in the afternoon, we know where to go. In this case, it was The Wishing Well, A Public House which is less than two blocks from our “house”...staggering home distance as we used to say. On our first afternoon, we stopped in and met Alana who was tending the bar that day and during the conversation we were having about our travels, etc., we gave her a business card (as we do). When she saw our surname, she chuckled and said, “Do you know who owns this pub?” Of course we didn’t but we were quite amazed when she said the proprietor is Christopher Martino.
Now when we first envisioned this section of our website, we thought we would just do restaurants with “Martino” in the name. But we have discovered a couple Italian eateries that are called something besides Martino’s but are owned and/or run by folks with our last name. We have therefore, modified our thinking and we will be including these establishments in our quest as well.
So we planned to have at least one meal at The Wishing Well and we got that done on our third day in Philly, Friday April 12, 2013. Since we had planned a fairly early dinner at Mr. Martino’s that evening, we wanted to have an early lunch so we were there just after they opened at 11:00am. Erik was just getting things set up for the lunch crowd and we found a nice table in the back. While serving us our drinks, we asked Erik if Chris was around today and he told us that he would be in later.
After lunch and before I finished my second pint, Chris did arrive and we were able to not only meet our long, lost “cousin”, but he was able to sit and talk with us for a while. During that conversation we learned that Chris had owned The Wishing Well for a little over three years and since he lives on the premises, it meets that English requirement and can actually be called a “public house”. We also learned that in 1972, Chris’s father Anthony Martino founded MAACO, the collision repair and automobile painting franchisor. He had sold his interest in another familiar company, AAMCO, some years earlier. The Martino family is well established in and around the Philadelphia area and it was truly fascinating to run across these Martinos quite by accident...a happy Martino Quest occurrence!