LOS ANGELES Longtime restaurateur Ciro “Mario” Marino, a pillar of this city’s Italian dining scene, died Wednesday after a battle with lung cancer. He was 76 years old.
Marino was known most recently as the patriarch of the family that owned the restaurant Marino Ristorante, which he opened in 1983. The venue, now operated by his son Mario Marino, quickly became known as the unofficial commissary of the nearby Paramount Studios and a popular haunt for entertainment industry executives.
The elder Marino, however, was also well known among the music industry elite after he opened Martoni’s in 1960 in Hollywood, a restaurant that was frequented by such music celebrities as Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and members of the Beatles and the Jackson Five.
Sonny Bono wrote the song “Laugh at Me” after being refused service at Martoni’s for his wild attire. Sam Cooke reportedly dined there the night he was shot, and A&M Records was created by a partnership of Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss, forged after the two kept running into each other at Martoni’s, according to the record label’s archives.
Born in Naples, Marino came to the United States around 1950 and first worked as a waiter in New York. In 1952, he moved to Los Angeles and worked at the restaurant Chianti in the Villa Capri, a celebrity hangout at the time.
Marino’s first restaurant was Via Veneto, one of the city’s first outdoor cafes, which opened on Sunset Plaza in 1957. He followed up the opening of Martoni’s with the launch of Martoni Marquis on Sunset Strip in 1970.
Six years later, Marino returned to Italy with his family, only to return to Los Angeles a few years later to open Marino Ristorante. There, his wife, Maria, served as hostess, and his children also worked in the restaurant.
Marino’s son Salvatore Marino is now the chef-owner of the well-known Italian restaurant Il Grano in West Los Angeles. Salvatore and brother Mario also co-own La Bottega Marino. And Marino’s son-in-law Stefano Ongaro is the owner of the Los Angeles restaurant All’Angelo.
In addition to wife Maria, sons Mario and Salvatore, and daughter Rosanna, Marino leaves one grandchild.