Mario’s Via Abruzzi Hard Crust Herb Rolls

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These Hard Crust Herb Rolls were served at  both Mario’s Pizza & Pasta and Mario’s Via Abruzzi, were customers would often line up waiting for freshly baked rolls to be brought out directly from the oven to the salad bar.

Mario’s Via Abruzzi

Did you ever dine at Mario’s Via Abruzzi? It was all about the grand upscale dinning experience, and was one Rochester’s Grandest Restaurants. Built in 1995, the 11,000-square-foot restaurant sat 200 in the dining room and 250 in the ballroom. This was the restaurant were many Rochesterians celebrated special events, and turned to for a special evening out. The atmosphere was always calm, quiet, and welcoming. While Mario’s had an extensive Itailian sit down menu, I think Mario’s via Abruzzi was probably best know for their massive bruch buffets.

“At Mario’s, You are not just a customer, you are my special guest”     

-Mario Daniele

Last night while I was typing up this post I asked my husband when the last time he was at Mario’s Via Abruzzi, we decided we were there about 17 years ago for a babyshower in the ballroom, and before that about 20 years ago I was there with a group of girl friends for the champagne brunch, as a fun way to shake off the winter blahs. It is hard to believe it has been that long, I wish I had gone again more recently before they closed the Brighton location.

Mario’s Via Abruzzi served it’s last dinner on December 23, 2015. Owned by the Daniele family, the large facility in Brighton which was a landmark restuarant in the area, was shuttered to make way for the developement of a Whole Foods (now owned by Amazon). The Whole Foods developement seems to have stalled out, and the restaurant has sat vacant for 4 years, with no developement on the large parcel of land on Route 31 near 590 while neighbors and the Daniele Developement group have worked out handling the possible increase in traffic in an already congested area, and the installment of Amazon Lockers, (safe deposit box-type receptacles used for package delivery to Amazon customers). While the Whole Foods project has been inching along, the Daniele Family opened a new restaurant in Webster with a focus on freshly made pasta called Mario’s Pasta Kitchen, a casual family-style restaurant that brings back memories of the original Mario’s of  East Avenue during the 1980s and 1990s.

During the late 90’s into the early 2000’s Mario’s was heavily advertised, running commericals, printing cookbooks, and selling jars of pasta sauce at local grocery stores. My cookbook, Mario’s: 100 Recipes from the Landmark Rochester, NY Restaurant comes from around that time. I scored my copy of this cookbook off eBay, but if you keep you eyes peeled these are the kind of cookbooks that frequently pop up at Goodwill. The Hard Crust Herb Roll recipe alone made it a worthwhile purchase, but I have quite a few other recipe bookmarked as well!

Promotional Photo of Mario’s Sunday Brunch

Reproducing Restaurant Recipes

Cooking a locally loved restaurant creation—intended to be cooked by professionals, with professional tools and appliances for large crowds of people per night— comes with its own unique set of challenges, and to be very honest, the more restaurant recipes I attempt, the more I know the results can be very hit or miss.

Before I even measured out the flour for Mario’s Via Abruzzi Hard Crust Herb Rolls I was skeptical, restaurant breads seem the hardest for me to master. But I followed the recipe closely, only adding a couple of additional splashes of water because my dough seemed to be a tad on the dry side. This is completely normal in bread making, since the exact amount of water needed can varying based on the humidity in the air.

Once my rolls were out of the oven I tore a piece off of a still warm roll and popped it in my mouth as a quick taste test. I was absolutely pleasantly surprised. The flavor was remarkable, and the texture perfect.

I wish I could compare these by memory to the hard crust rolls served at Mario’s, but honestly, I don’t remember if I ever even eat one while I was there. I will have to make it a point to visit Mario’s Pasta Kitchen in Webster to see if these rolls are served at the new location.

But, what I can tell you is that, this Hard Crust Herb Roll Recipe makes a restaurant quality roll, you can easily recreate in your home kitchen. You can even let your bread machine do the heavy lifting and knead the dough for you!

My family loves these flavorful rolls. There is something about the garlicky, peppery flavor that goes perfectly with pasta, we love serving them with lasagna.

A couple of quick tips for making Mario’s Via Abruzzi Hard Crust Herb Rolls

  • Don’t skip the ground oregano! I know this is kind of an oddball ingredient, but it added so much more flavor than just using dried oregano. I don’t typically buy ground oregano, but I do have a coffee grinder that I use solely for spices, and gave my regular oregano a whirl in the grinder until it was powder. It was so aromatic and provided the perfect amount of flavor distribution throughout the rolls.
  • If you have a kitchen scale, weigh the flour. Scales provide more accurate and consistent results.
  • The dough should feel firm and sticky. King Arthur Flur blogger Susan Reid said it best, “If you touch the dough and your finger comes back coated, the dough is too wet. If you touch the dough and it feels like poking a beach ball, it’s too dry.”
  • Making the rolls the same size ensures an even baking time. Rolling the dough into a log shape and cutting the dough evenly into 18 sections, will help you get consistent sized rolls. You can use a kitchen scale to weigh them.
Mario's Via Abruzzi Hard Crust Herb Rolls

Mario's Via Abruzzi Hard Crust Herb Rolls

Yield: 18 rolls
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Additional Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes

From Mario's Cookbook, these rolls are legendary. Served at both Mario's Pizza & Pasta and Mario's Via Abruzzi Customers would often line up waiting for freshly baked rolls to be brought out directly from the oven to the salad bar.



  1. Carefully measure out the yeast, salt, granulated garlic, ground pepper, ground oregano and dry dried oregano into a small bowl. Measure the shortening. Sift and measure the flour or preferably weigh the flour.
  2. Add the warm tap water and shortening to the bowl of a KitchenAid mixer or other tabletop mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix briefly to help melt the shortening , add the dry ingredients you previously measured into a small bowl, and mix briefly to incorporate.
  3. Add the flour, and run the mixer for about 3 minutes or until the dough forms into a ball and pulls away from the sides of the mixer.
  4. Empty the dough onto a clean lightly floured surface. Cut and pull it into roughly 1 -1/2 inch diameter log shape. Cut across the log shape to form 18 rolls roughly 2 to 3 inches in size. Place the rolls on a pre-oiled baking sheet and brush with a dab of melted butter on each one.
  5. Proof the rolls by first placing an oven thermometer in the oven and turning it on for a few minutes. Once the oven gets to about 90 degrees Fahrenheit place a shallow pan of hot tap water on the bottom shelf. This will provide a warm humid environment suitable for proofing. Put the rolls in the oven, and when they have just about doubled in size they're ready to bake.
  6. Remove the rolls from the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.
  7. Bake the rolls in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until the rolls are done.


  • A 1/2 ounce of yeast= 2 packets, or 4 1/2 teaspoons.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 18 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 221Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 7mgSodium: 501mgCarbohydrates: 38gFiber: 2gSugar: 0gProtein: 6g

Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimates. Please see my Nutrition Disclaimer for more information.

What are your memories of Mario’s Via Abruzzi, have you been to the new location in Webster?

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  1. I cooked at Mario’s in East Avenue in the 80’s when I was in highschool and used to make these rolls! I still think about them and wish I had written the recipe down. I don’t remember much of it but I know that it was the same dough that was used for his pizza. We used cake yeast that came in a one pound block like butter. I seem to remember using additional herbs. I make my own her rolls now and include dried basil in addition to oregano. We would form the rolls and refrigerate them for a day before baking. They were spaced on sheet pans without sides touching. I can’t wait to try this recipe!

  2. I only went to to Mario’s once when I was 15 for a prom dinner. It seemed so elegant and I couldn’t appreciate it then. The food was amazing but I had no idea what I had ordered cuz everything was in Italian! So sad to hear they closed the main restaurant for Amazon!

  3. Thanks for the recipe, sounds yummy. Are both Crisco and butter ingredients in the dough? I only see Crisco listed, but the directions seem to include butter?

    1. Hi Brenda, No, just butter flavored Crisco in the roll dough. Sorry about that, I fixed the recipe card. If you are not seeing an updated version try refreshing your browser. Thank you for letting me know, I think you will love this recipe it is so good!