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Where: 303 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, 3065—View map

Contact: 03 9417 3343

Open: Breakfast Mon-Sun 7am-10.30pm; Sat-Sun #am-#pm

Payment: Cash

Diet: Check with venue

Seating: Inside and outside

Kids: Get a baby sitter

Pets: Welcome

One of the greats

words by Helena Goodrich 31 August 2013
photos by Albert Comper

Breakfast is surely the only good reason to get up early on your day off. With this thought I step off the tram onto Brunswick Street, which is alive with bright-eyed early risers as well as a few stragglers clearly suffering from the night before. Marios, installed here for the past twenty-five years, has become a local institution. The red neon lettering signals customers in for coffee and a traditional café breakfast.

I have never been to Italy but I’ve seen The Godfather enough times to dream up a fantasy involving suave dark haired gentlemen and elegantly poised ladies, smoking whilst sipping on endless black coffees. I couldn’t source an Italian to accompany me to breakfast but I brought along a jazz musician, who fitted fairly well.

The white linen tablecloths, black and white tiled floor and retro TV sets on the walls lend the place vintage charm, complemented by the smooth looking man pulling espresso shots from behind the gleaming bar. I am instantly won over by the friendly, relaxed atmosphere. My fellow diners are mainly locals hunkering down to a solid meal and as clichéd as it may sound, I feel instantly at home. This place was started by two Italians, both called Mario, who wanted to create a café that was both classy and casual. Somehow it doesn’t feel as though the joint has changed since and I can’t help but love it for this.

A smiling waitress dressed in a pin striped three-piece suit sits us down. ‘Would we like to order drinks?’ The italicized black letters ‘bloody mary’ call softly to me but I resist. I choose a piccolo.

I ignore the cereal section, tucked tactfully at the bottom. Whilst the porridge with banana or one of many combinations revolving around grains, fruit and yoghurt would be perfectly tasty, it would be foolish to choose these over the who’s who guide to cooked breakfast dishes. Eggs, toast, bacon, mushrooms, avocado, sausage and every well-loved extra you could possibly desire fill the page. French toast peeks out, the lone sweet amongst savoury dishes.

I eventually select eggs florentine, a true breakfast classic. This is not a recipe to fool around with and thankfully Marios don’t. No secret additions of fried dukkah or quinoa crumbs, Marios’ is the trademark version of the dish: crisp toasted muffin topped with iron-rich spinach, perfectly soft eggs and a generous helping of creamy bearnaise sauce with just a hint of lemon. Which of the many possible sides to choose? Hash browns. They're a guilty delight of crispy fried potato which pair of well with the remaining bearnaise.

My friend orders a more experimental dish of poached eggs with smashed peas, chilli, mint and feta on toast (now a menu mainstay due to its popularity as a weekend special). I manage to sneak a couple of bites of the fresh minty pea, salty feta, a hint of chilli heat and eggs that ooze perfect yellow yolk onto the crisp seed toast.

There’s something so warm and comforting about Marios which extends beyond their hearty breakfasts. This café is a tradition I will happily be a part of.

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