Mario’s Pizza and the Tulsa Food Tour

For as long as I have known Michal, he has told me about his favourite pizza. In fact one of our very first conversations was about the so called Best Pizza in the World – Mario’s Pizza in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

I didn’t really think much about it then, but as I have heard the story over and over, people’s reactions are always the same: “What?! The best pizza in the world is in Tulsa?!”

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And Michal is crazy enough about that pizza that he would make a huge detour and drive for hundreds of miles to eat it, as well as to confirm that it’s still the best pizza in the world after ten years.

So, as we drove up from Arkansas, we set our GPS to ‘51st and Harvard, Tulsa, OK’ i.e. Mario’s Pizza. We arrived just in time for lunch, to order the XL White Pizza.

And the pizza is still as good as it was years ago. The Best Pizza in the World!

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We couldn’t leave without saying something. So we started chatting with the owner, Sally, telling her that Michal is one of their biggest fans and travelled across the world to eat there.

Although she wouldn’t tell us all of her secrets, she said the key is to keep consistency in her suppliers. She has had the same suppliers with the best ingredients since she started.

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“I don’t do any of those weird things, like putting a pizza on top of a pizza! I just stick with what works. Sometimes I add a new topping here of there, but I’m not trying to invent something new.

“If it works, just keep doing it!”

Sally and her husband were born in the same hospital in New York, just north of the Hudson river.

“A lot of people say that’s upstate, but it’s still New York City. Martio’s was my favourite pizza place growing up – it was right where we lived – you don’t have to go to Manhattan for good pizza!”

Sally and her husband moved to Oklahoma in 1973, and there were no good pizza places!

They met Mario, who was born in Italy, moved to NYC, and then came out to Oklahoma. He worked in several of the Tulsa pizzerias, but no-one made it the real Italian New York way.

So when Mario met Sally and her husband, Mario’s pizza was born!

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Today, Sally runs the place alone; they bought Mario’s share of the business years ago, and sadly her husband recently died. But Sally’s staff share her passion for that perfect slice, and continue to make their famous New York style pizza.

Eric, one of the pizza chefs at Marios, says that they get a lot of New Yorkers  coming in to try their pizza, and that they’re always impressed.  “When I went to New York City, I couldn’t find the slice that was better than ours!”

He says the ‘cheese warm, not too hot’ (i.e. the standard cheese pizza slice) is the best way to judge if someone is doing their pizza right. “If you get that right, then anything you put on top will be good.”

After finishing the whole 22” pie, (a lot of pizza!) Michal’s praise for the pizza carried on. And Sally didn’t let us leave empty handed, giving us two Mario’s Pizza t-shirts.

The day before, a lady had come from a newspaper to interview Sally and feature her as Tulsa’s top pizzeria. So if you’re a pizza lover, Michal is sending out the challenge to come to Tulsa and give Mario’s a try.

For four years, Michal went to University in Tulsa, and so the food tour had to continue. The second stop on the tour was a visit to his friend Margeret, who owns Margeret’s German Restaurant.

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Their menu is filled with German delicacies; schnitzel, sausages, and spaetzle, but since Margeret  is originally from Poland, she always has some Polish specialties that aren’t on the menu.

We had Goulash with Spaetzle and a dessert sampler; it was amazing to eat European food and catch up with an old friend.

The next day we had cravings for Chinese food since we had been out of Hong Kong for over two months. So Michal took me to one of his old favourites; Hot Wok on Louis Ave, right next to his old university.

We ordered Szechuan dishes… not as hot as the authentic Szechuan but they are still definitely worth a try!

That evening we were invited to dinner by our friends Mark and Susan, who we knew from Hong Kong. They wanted to take us out, and we ended up at an Irish Pub on Cherry St. Of course Guinness was a must, to go with the Guinness Pie!

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On Monday morning went to visit Michal’s old school and reconnected with his professors. We said that we might be coming through Tulsa on our way back to New York, (for another slice of Marios), and since the school year would have already started, Michal could come back and share with the multimedia students – so we have another great incentive to come to Tulsa.

The food tour continued, and later we visited another friend Renata. As hard as it is for Michal to admit, Renata makes better Pierogis than his grandma!

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But as it was a surprise visit, she didn’t have any Pierogis in the freezer, so she made us a fantastic home cooked Polish meal. We could hardly leave the table we were so full!

After a long day, we arrived back at Mark and Susan’s home; and to our surprise, they had cooked amazing seafood Creole! Originally from New Orleans, Mark who is a pastor by day turns into a chef by night, and cooked us come delicious authentic dishes.

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It was great to have that true Creole food, since when we were in New Orleans having lunch with a friend, we got so caught up in conversation that we didn’t even order proper Creole dishes!

Our Tulsa visit was filled with food and friends; the two seem to go together. As we were driving south on our way to Texas, it got hotter and hotter, and so for the final visit on the Tulsa Food Tour, we stopped for ice cream at Braums.

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You can only find Braums in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas; a double-dip of butter pecan is Michal’s choice every time!

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