I Just Met a Girl Named … Maria
The PubScout falls for Ocean Isle Beach’s new Italian restaurant.
Actually, I did not meet a specific Maria. I did meet perky Heather (again) and efficient, pleasant Alyssa for the first time. But it was at Ocean Isle Beach’s popular new Italian restaurant named Maria’s Pizzeria, so I guess that counts for something, though Maria herself was nowhere in sight.
And if you go there on a weekend evening — including Sunday — you, too will be counting, as in how many people are in front of you waiting to get a table. We got there at 6:30 pm, and there were lines of people waiting to be seated. Many were waiting outside the place, as the weather was comfortable.
Inside, the place was packed and bustling, usually a sign of good things to come. And after we got seated at just before 7 pm, come they did.
The PEI Mussels in Maria’s special sauce (sautéed in garlic, olive oil and tomato sauce) were plentiful and incredible. Had I known that wonderfully seasoned sauce was going to be that plentiful and delicious, I’d have forgone the rest of my meal and stocked up on Maria’s bread just to sop it up. My dining partners, however, found it just as good, so I had “help.”
It was actually my second visit to Maria’s, but on my first, customers were restricted to whatever came out of the wood-fired oven, as the propane tank that powered the stoves suddenly quit. The pizza and Stromboli we had that night were very good (and large enough to feed the entire off-season population of OIB, I suspect), but it wouldn’t have been fair to review the place with its main dishes unavailable.
The missus ordered the Penne Pasta in Vodka Sauce and found it to be wonderful. My own Penne Contadina was uniquely prepared, quite delicious and huge. My son ordered a Deli Stromboli (which he’s still consuming on the ride back home to Jersey as I write), and his fiancée ordered one of Maria’s famous pizzas. Both said they were totally satisfied, exclaiming, “Probably the best Italian restaurant we’ve seen down here so far.”
I usually eschew my favorite beverage (beer) with Italian food, but on this night, I opted for Wicked Weed’s Lieutenant Dank on tap, and it worked very well with my Penne Contadina, playing off the spices and sausage very nicely. (Not to mention how well it paired with the sauce of the mussels.)
Tables finally seemed to be opening up as we were leaving, shortly after 8 pm, but it wasn’t hard to figure out why there was an initial dearth of them early on. Maria’s food is very much like what your Italian mother or grandmother would make for you. It had that homemade “feel” and taste that indicated care was being taken and attention being paid in the kitchen. Maybe that’s where Maria was?
With Maria’s being less than a mile from my home, we will assuredly be going back, though, if it was this packed during the off-season, the on-season could make it a multi-hour adventure,
Which is good for Maria’s, and, if you’re willing to wait, good for you. Maria’s also does take-out orders, which might be a good strategy if you’re hungry or in a hurry or both.
I’m going to try takeout with an order or two of the PEI Mussels in that special sauce, and you can bet I’ll ask for enough bread to allow me to sop in the comfort of my home.
Without any help.
The PubScout — immersed in the craft beer scene since 1996.
As always, feel free to share!
120 Causeway Drive, Unit 7, Ocean Isle Beach
Facebook: Marias Pizzeria OIB