Today, my all-time favourite café turns 28 years old. Marios café (named for its two owners, Mario Maccarone and Mario De Pasquale, hence no apostrophe) is celebrating its birthday and remains the ultimate in Melbourne café culture. It’s unapologetic (still doesn’t serve skim milk, although did succumb a couple of years ago and started to offer soy) and reliable (never had a bad coffee!).
I’ve been going to Marios for pretty much all of its 28 years – first with my parents and then with friends. Once I left school, meeting up with people at Marios was the epitome of cool! Great jazz on the stereo, a gorgeous changing art display showcasing local talent, and the best coffee in Melbourne. Plus tablecloths on the tables, smartly dressed waiters and breakfast served all day. There have been many times that I’ve ordered scrambled eggs or a blueberry bagel at 10pm!
Back in my uni days, it was the location for many first dates and I could always tell if there would be a second date by whether or not the guy knew of Marios when I suggested we meet there. In any relationship break up in the division of cafes and pubs and places we’d hung out, I always got Marios!
Marios is where I take overseas friends when I want them to have a truly Melbourne café experience. DOC friends from home and abroad have been taken there and just a couple months ago, a group of us got together to catch up. It’s where I meet up with friends who have moved overseas when they come home for a visit. My beautiful friend Shannon who moved from Melbourne to Hong Kong and then the UK over 15 years ago and I have a standing date any time she’s in town so she can get a fix of Marios lasagne! Recently, I caught up with a long-lost friend and there was no doubt about where we would meet.
There have been many memorable visits to Marios including the night before my daughter was born, where I checked my watch every ten minutes, counting down until the time I would meet her, and the day she came home from hospital, where a pit stop was made to show her off to the waiters.
I’ve laughed, cried, and had some of the most serious conversations of my life in Marios. I’ve said goodbye to friends and welcomed them back into my life. I’ve met up with people for difficult, heartbreaking chats because it’s always felt safe.
I can still remember my first trip to Marios after I was diagnosed with diabetes. It was only a week or two later and it was the first time I was eating out. It was where I did my first ‘public injection’ and I can remember my heart racing as I pulled my insulin pen out of my bag and tried to jab my stomach secretly. I was sure everyone was watching me, judging me, waiting to jump on me and tell me to put it away. No one noticed and if they did, said nothing. I searched the menu for food that the ridiculously old-school dietitian I had seen would approve of and I wondered if it would be okay for me have chocolate sprinkled on top of my cappuccino. I fought back tears as I asked the waiter for sugar substitute and then explained why I was asking. My coffee was on the house that day.
Now, I don’t hide away my BGL checks or pulling my pump out from under my clothes when I am out, and it was at Marios that I realised that I had nothing to be ashamed about when it came to ‘public displays of diabetes’. Marios normalised eating out with diabetes – the new reality of my life.
I felt safe there. I knew I would not be questioned. I knew that I would still be the old me there and Marios would never change. It felt like it always did. It felt like home.
303 Brunswick Street Fitzroy VIC
(03) 9417 3343