GALVESTON, Texas – When it comes to pizza and pasta on the piece of land called Galveston Island, Mario’s Ristorante has been a staple as the oldest Italian restaurant in the county since the 60’s.
Giovanni Smecca is the only son of the man who helped start and continues to operate this Italian eatery, Giovanni senior. Giovanni originally immigrated from Sicily to New Jersey but moved to the Texas shore shortly after, allegedly because of the Glenn Campbell song, ‘Galveston.’
Giovanni Jr. was born on the island but didn’t share the same enthusiasm for life by the bay.
“In the beginning, yeah. I definitely rejected it,” said Giovanni Jr. “It wasn’t really my thing, but you know, like I said – when I grew up in Galveston I rejected Galveston. You know, the older you get the more you respect it and the more you fall in love with it.”
After perusing a career in the computer business, Giovanni returned to fulfill his role as the prodigal son by opening up a burger joint.
To honor his Italian heritage, Giovanni made a play on an Italian word ‘ciao’ that most people know – or not.
“A lot of people can’t pronounce it, so it makes it even more weird,” Giovanni Jr. said. “See-yow Down. Yeah. Siao, Key-ow. It’s a strange word I guess for a lot of Texans, you know.”
On today’s menu, we’ve got a burger that doesn’t have Italian or Texan roots, but rather Hawaiian. Head Chef and General Manager Juan Salazar brought the burger into focus.
“We’re going to feature the Big Kahuna burger,” said Salazar.
Juan got things started with 6 ounce patty that’s ground in house, seasoned and slapped on the grill. Canned pineapple is placed on the grill, the sourdough bun is toasted, and the burger is flipped and topped with a sweet fire glaze.
“Something that gives it a really nice sweet and kind of a spicy kick,” Salazar said.
Then it’s topped with what else but mozzarella cheese. Chipotle mayo is put on the bun then the burger is stacked with Applewood smoked bacon and the grilled pineapple and that’s it!
“He really wanted to keep it as simple as possible, and that’s what we try and do, and really just try not to mess it up,” said Salazar. “It’s the sweetness of the pineapple, it’s the spiciness of the glaze and it’s a nice mellowness of the mozzarella cheese.” You’re making my mouth water.
With so many smells coming off this burger, that there’s only one thing I wanna do – see how it tastes. Like a hula skirt on a windy down, I’m blown away – we are definitely hanging ten.
So many flavors are going on in this burger. Between the spicy chipotle mayo and that glaze, that glaze really gives it the extra little oomph.
“You can look at it, but we won’t go into detail, because I really think that puts the burger together,” Giovanni Jr. said.
Pineapple may be a peculiar ingredient in a burger, but in this instance, it particularly works.
“Not you know, really a combination that most people go for, but it is our top-selling burger,” said Salazar.
The Big Kahuna Burger at Ciao Down on Galveston Island, well worth a stop for one tasty burger right here on The Texas Bucket List.