Published in the October 26, 2017 edition


NORTH READING — After 30 years, Mario’s Restaurant in Eastgate Plaza at 20 Main Street is changing hands.

Both Mario’s wine and malt beverage license and common victualler’s license were transferred by a unanimous vote of the Board of Selectmen Oct. 16 from Orazio Inc., which does business under the name of Mario’s Pizzeria and Restaurant, to M.R. Reading Inc., which will be known as Mario’s Ristorante.

Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto said on Monday they are now just waiting for the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (ABCC) to sign off on the license transfer.

New owner Kevin Masterson appeared before the selectmen at the license transfer public hearing representing the new enterprise.

Masterson told the board he has more than 30 years of experience in the restaurant business both here and in Canada. In response to a question from Selectman Steve O’Leary about his business holdings in Canada, Masterson explained that he is a native of Oxford, Mass. who married a Canadian and spent 15 years living there. He returned to the states about 20 years ago, adding he has been “happy to be back.”

Selectman Kathryn Manupelli asked Masterson if he has ever had any violations of liquor licenses. Masterson said he has never had a violation and has always maintained “clean records” in all of his restaurant ventures in both the U.S. and Canada.

Masterson described Mario’s as a “40-50 seat restaurant that does 60 percent takeout. It has a small dining room that serves beer and wine. Food is roughly 95 percent of the menu, beer and wine is about five percent menu.”

“We are not really going to change much there. We are going to keep it as is and hopefully continue the success of what they’ve done,” he added.

Manupelli asked Masterson about the other restaurants he has managed.

“Currently I own a restaurant in Newton called Johnny’s Luncheonette (which) has a beer and wine license. I owned Tennesee’s BBQ. I licensed those out; I used to operate them. They all have beer and wine licenses,” he said, adding that he has also bought and sold “numerous” other restaurants. Masterson said he operated Tennessee’s BBQ for about “10-12 years.”

He has owned Johnny’s for about 3 1/2 years and spends about 10 hours per week there. He said he intends to be on site at Mario’s about 30 hours per week. He and his business partner at Johnny’s will form the “management team” at Mario’s, with his partner being on site about “45-50 hours per week.”

O’Leary asked if he planned to retain the current employees at Mario’s.

“We’ll retain as many as will stay, so hopefully everybody will stay. The family is moving on. The mother and father are retiring, their son’s going off on his own business, and anybody else that’s there we’d like to keep. We haven’t talked to them yet, but that’s our plan,” Masterson said.

Selectman Andrew Schultz asked if the cuisine would remain the same or if he planned to focus more on the take-out business.

Masterson responded that for the first three to six months they plan to keep everything “exactly the same.”

He added, “We bought it because we liked what it was — homemade, authentic Italian. We are going to keep all the recipes and maybe update the decor. I know the landlord has some plans for the outside of the building. CVS is going to have a free-standing building there, but for us, it will be pretty much the same. That is what we did with our last restaurant.”

Take-out service will “definitely” remain a focus at Mario’s because it is such an integral part of the business, he said.

Selectmen Chairman Michael Prisco asked if they planned any “major interior renovations” or had any plans to make a bar. Masterson said he has not spent a lot of time in the restaurant but he has no intention to add a bar. The kitchen is “in great shape” so other than possible changes to the “front of the house,” such as the flooring and furniture he said, “we’ll really take our lead from the landlord to see what he does on the outside of the building.”

O’Leary said, “Mario’s has been a terrific member of the business community and the community as a whole. We would hope that that would also continue too.”

Masterson agreed. “It definitely will. I’ve had a lot of restaurants and I’ve built a lot of restaurants and I recognize when there is something that has real value to the community which supports it and that is the reason we bought it, to keep it as it is and make a few tweaks, but I wouldn’t come to North Reading unless it was a great business. It just happens to be good timing. They’re ready to retire and we recognize what a great restaurant it is,” he said.

Before the vote Prisco added, “I just wanted to thank Mario’s and their family and wish them well in their retirement. It certainly has been one of my favorite locations in town. My family and I have enjoyed it a lot over the years, and we welcome you to the neighborhood.”