Mario’s Pizza House Property Up for Auction

by ARLnow.com December 3, 2012 at 2:25 pm 10,468 99 Comments

(Updated at 3:00 p.m.) The land under a long-time Arlington institution is on the auction block.

The family that owns Mario’s Pizza House is selling the 16,000 square foot parcel of land on which Mario’s and the Carvel Ice Cream shop sits. Mario’s has been in business at that location, 3322 Wilson Boulevard, between Clarendon and Virginia Square, since 1958.

The land — much of which sits fallow as a surface parking lot — was originally listed for sale for $3 million. After apparently not finding a buyer at that price, the land is now going up for auction.

“This property is located in one of the only prime development areas remaining in Arlington, VA,” according to the auction website. “It… consists of 3 parcels totaling 16,073 square feet. The 2,400 sf retail building is currently home to Mario’s Pizza and Carvel Ice Cream and produces $12,500 per month in rental income.”

The auction is set to take place on Thursday, Dec. 20, but the winning bidder will not necessarily be allowed to purchase the property.

“This sale is subject to our motivated Seller’s approval,” the auction listing notes.

We’re told that there are still 12-15 years left on the leases for Mario’s and Carvel. (Though owned by the same family, the land owner and the restaurant are separate business entities.) The stores are likely to remain open until the land buyer, if there is one, manages to get a redevelopment plan approved by the county.

“The C-2 zoning lends for a unique opportunity in that the developer has the chance to change the landscape of the current parcels while simultaneously collecting rent,” the auction listing says.

One possibility is that a developer might buy this property, then attempt to buy the adjacent Pio-Pio restaurant and Highlander motel properties. That could allow a large high-rise development, given the proximity to the Orange Line. Either way, both Mario’s and Carvel are here to stay, says Mario’s owner Alan Levine.

“Both leases are long term and convey,” Levine told ARLnow.com. “There will be no interruption of operations for either business. It is just time to allow others to put this block together properly for the future and Mario’s and Carvel have first rights to go into any new development.”

Photo courtesy (top) Timothy D. Image (bottom) via Google Maps. Hat tip to various tipsters.

  • CrystalMikey

    Z-Burger 2.

  • MrMeow

    JUST WONDERFUL. Now the only place I can get a Fudgie the Whale or a cookiepuss will be gone. THANKS A LOT!

    • Mario’s and Carvel are here to stay, “Both leases are long term (12-15 years) and convey,”

  • Captain_Obvious

    good riddance. worst.pizza.ever.

    • CW

      Darn good cheesesteaks though

    • T


      • T

        Let me clarify that.

        +1 to worst pizza ever.
        +1000000000 to darn good cheese steaks. Mario’s will be missed whenever it closes.

        • B

          Agreed that the cheesesteak there is one of the best around. It was a pain that every time I went I had to tell the guy making it multiple times what I wanted on it.

          • Luddite

            One bit of progress they could use is to let you order on-line for pickup. Howevah, part of the charm is BS-ing with the guys who have worked there for 40-50 years.

          • CW

            Haha yeah, generally when I order a cheesesteak i get something similar, but not quite the same as, what I ordered. Always delicious though.

    • YTK

      Lousiest pizza ever. I don’t know how they managed to stay in business for so long.

      • James

        Just like with most things in life, it’s based on opinion. You have yours. Others love the pizza and it’s always in the top pizza in the area.

        Most that I know that don’t like it say it’s too sweet. Sweet sauce (like Grotto’s) is not liked by everyone.

        • MOB

          Not the best, but not the worst either. I never thought I would like BBQ on pizza til I tried it at Mario’s. Now where will I go at 3 am when there is nothing else open???

  • UptonHiller


  • After apparently not finding a seller at that price, the land is now going up for auction.

    Maybe if they looked for a *buyer* they might have better luck.

    • nthan

      I’ll sell it for 2 million – give me 2 million and it’s yours

  • Bwahahaha, now I will be cheesesteak king of Arlington!

  • GC2

    If Carvel / Marios Close, then customers parking at Pio Pio by accident and getting towed within 2 minutes may come to a close – The Advanced Towing property may lose its primary revenue source. Would love to see PioPio closed since it contracts with that towing company.

    • Actually, their #1 revenue source is the IHOP parking lot on Fairfax.

      • Same folks who hover around the Clarendon Walgreen’s?

    • Ben

      Well, it’s easy to tell who is parking illegally at Pio Pio since it’s not like anyone goes there on purpose.

    • +1000

    • karzai

      Yes, our common objective should be to drive Advanced Towing, better known as “Predatory Towing Inc.” out of business as soon as possible.

      • Mark

        The way to drive Advanced Towing out of business is to not park where you’re not supposed to. Pretty simple.

  • Is the land zoned for a high rise? What does the Va Square sector plan call for?

    • Clarendon

      Nah, unless you consider 4 stories a high rise (which some do I think).


      • Don’t fool yourself. They will let a developer build pretty much as big as they want, assuming sufficient millions are donated to the affordable housing fund.

        • Clarendon

          I’d actually think it wouldn’t be bad to go a little higher than 4 stories, and I wouldn’t put it past allowing an extra story beyond the plan, but I doubt anything more than that would be approved.

        • Lou

          I like that regulation!

        • DCBuff

          No to “big as they want” and no to an extra story beyond plan. AHCA would not agree to going beyond the sector plan as this property abuts residential and has frontage on a residential street. I suspect part of the reason why the owners haven’t found a buyer willing to negotiate from $3 mil is the low likelihood of major redevelopment along with the property size/shape. Rest assured they’ve gone to the owners of the Pio Pio and Highlander properties already.

      • Any redevelopment is likely to be long but not tall. The neighborhood has squelched 6-story proposals on the south side of Wilson in the past. On the other hand, four stories if the first floor is retail can look more like 5 or 6.

      • speonjosh

        oh, but is it URBAN?
        Four stories? Nope, that must mean it is SUBURBAN.

        • Captain_Obvious

          still suburban. sorry.

          • Josh S

            Exactly, CO. I think I’ve figured out your criteria – must have tall buildings. I’m not sure what your minimum is, but I’m guessing it has to be only 11 stories or so, because otherwise Washington, DC would be suburban according to you.

  • Zach

    The cheesesteaks at Mario’s are really great but this land is definitely not being utilized as productively as it could be.

  • Grelia

    So sad =(

    • As clarified in the recent update, Mario’s does not plan to close.

      • ??

        It will close when it’s redeveloped though, right?

        • drax

          He’s right – the sign in the pic says “leases convey.” I guess that means no redevelopment for a while, or else a nice new location in a new building for the restaurant after redevelopment.

          • Joey

            That’s what Kitty Oshea’s owner thought when his property was sold too.

          • The leases have a buy-out clause, we’re told, so redevelopment could theoretically happen at any time.

          • CW

            I was about to say…leases are generally not exactly written so as to be friendly to the tenant…if someone owns the property I am sure they could make it go away.

            If they redevelop the site, maybe they could do similar to what they’re doing in the 11th/Washington site…preserve some aspect of the facade and let the business re-lease in the new building.

  • B22201

    I heard that a BonChon Chicken Flavored Seitan restaurant is going to buy the land and move in.

    I got a Cookie Puss for my birthday, and gifted one as well. Aside from the name being amusing, it’s crap even if the commercials are embedded into my mind since childhood.

    • FrenchyB

      I’ve got the Beastie Boys “Cookie Puss” song stuck in my head now.

  • Pizza

    Mario’s and Carvel both still have 12-15 on their lease. My prediction is that Mario’s will stay open as long as Lefty is alive.

  • Carvel service is S-L-O-W.

  • Suburban Not Urban

    ” sits fallow as a surface parking lot ” – You call it fallow – I call it a customer amenity – one that’s becoming increasingly scarce turning Arlington into a collection of dis-jointed islands unfriendly to businesses since they can only service a few blocks.

    • Arlingtonian

      I’m with you on that one Suburban Not Urban.

    • drax

      Huge traffic jams are unfriendly to business too.

    • speonjosh

      It’s weird how you see Maryland and DC plates in the some of the Clarendon garages…..also, I don’t live within a few blocks of there but still somehow seem to find myself frequenting various businesses in that neighborhood on a regular basis. And except for when I go to Whole Foods (rarely), I never park in a surface parking lot. In fact, I have even arrived via Metrorail. And even, and you might want to sit down for this one, I have even *rode a bicycle* to businesses in Arlington that were not within a few blocks of my home.

  • MitchJones

    Paradise lies under that parking lot…

  • Ashton Heights

    Excellent news! Hopefully this will be the end of one of the few remaining shady areas between Ballston and Rosslyn.

    • john

      fall in a hole

      • DCBuff

        My AH neighbor seems to dislike nearly everything. Why live in AH?

    • bobbytiger

      They have trees?

    • John

      That area was never shady. It may not look pretty, but Marios is the oldest restaurant in Arlington, and one of the last interesting businesses along Wilson.

  • Arlingtonian

    Fudgie the Whale, don’t leave me!

  • 7548

    “This property is located in one of the only prime development areas remaining in Arlington, VA,”

    Pure broker babble….

    • CW

      I don’t think so. There aren’t many good plots left in that proximity to a metro stop. I consider it fair.

      • DCBuff

        If one defines the Mario’s lot as a “good plot” there are several within the immediate area of Mario’s. Which I don’t consider to be a “prime development area” given the size.

  • speonjosh

    It’s facinating how many people open their mouths without having even read the article – just the headlines are enough on the internet, I guess.

    In any case – it’s no wonder they couldn’t find a buyer – that’s a fairly unattractive deal they are offering. Basically, you can take over as landlord. For two unattractive businesses on an unattractive piece of property.

    • Herman

      I can type with my mouth closed, but maybe that’s just me.

  • Ned

    Bourbon not Keth Urban – maybe you should move to Fairfax?

  • Ivy

    I wish they would build a Wegmans there.

    • Karzai’s Mammy

      Girl, I was thinking the same thing.

      • karzai

        You’re not my mammy. But I concur with the comment that hopefully something a bit more attractive will come to that space. I am absolutely salivating at the prospect that we may finally also get rid of that eyesore the Highlander Motor Inn. That place is a blight on our community and needs to go. NOW…..

    • speonjosh

      This is why I love the ARLnow comment threads – you just never know when little bits of comedy gold like this will sprout up.

    • Ivy Friend

      Bamber Lou?

  • MC

    Basically a conflict of interest here. Mario’s sells land, but holds it hostage as buyer tries to buy out long lease fot huge ransom.

    • Lee-N-Glebe

      Anyone who buys subject to being held hostage shouldn’t be buying commercial real estate. I suspect the article mentioned the approval process because it’s expected that the current tenants will remain until redevelopment is approved (the preceding is a guess based on experience and realistic expectations, I have zero knowledge of the facts of the actual transaction at issue). Buying the property any other way, when the sellers have control of the lease terms and can modify them, would require a special buyer and a really discounted price. For example, the Estate of James Campbell or some other such entity with long term, patient money might not mind (although that’s not the type of thing EJC buys).

    • GreatRosslynDriver

      I wish Dr. Dremo’s could have held their new owner “hostage” like that when the land was sold under them and they closed down years ago. And what’s there now? An empty lot. I’m glad these two businesses can stay in business until the new owner gets their act/plans/approvals/financing together to build something new.

      • karzai

        It’s not an empty lot. there is construction going on there as we speak. It is an attractive appartment building that will have several stores of ground floor retail….

        • GreatRosslynDriver

          Dremo’s closed in January 2008, nearly five years ago. When did construction begin? I think my point remains valid.

          • Louise

            You wrote, “And what’s there now? An empty lot.” This is not true. Therefore, your point is not valid.

        • Boom! Roasted

          Wow, that’s…clearly a downgrade from Dremos!

  • James Moron

    They ain’t long for this world. The comment about them staying in business is spin control and ego management. When they announce that they’re closing, they’ll say “it was just too good an offer to ignore.” It’s along the same lines as the conversion from Caribbean Breeze to ATown has nothing to do with the success of the former (and their tax bill). Now, when ATown closes is a few months, it will be obvious.

    Not that Bronx Pizza is the second coming, but it eliminates the one niche of Mario’s (drunk pizza at 3am).

  • Street Walker

    I am getting worried that the motel next door to Mario’s where I turn tricks to make a living will be auctioned off next!

    • DrunkGrrrl

      STFU ya blowin my cover dude.

  • Enough with all this Mario’s. What is going on across the street where they have been refurbing the old TransVid building for like – oh feels like 10 years now. Has to be thee longest rehab ever. Anyone?

    • karzai

      That is nearing completion as the new Z Burger.

  • Pats-or-Genos–NEITHER!

    Ummm …. great cheesesteaks? Wish there was one place ’round here that could serve up something close to whatcha gets at Chinks, John’s Roast Pork or Dalessandros. Whad I’d give for a f-n good Wiz Widt.

    • John K.

      Yeah, but if you don’t know… Mario’s SEEMS good. These may be the same folks who fawn over the steaks at the Broiler.

    • Filth

      Please move back to Philly. No one wants you here.

    • MOB

      The best steak and cheese in the area is Al’s Steak House on Mount Vernon Ave.

  • Coffee Drinker

    This would be an excellent spot for a Starbucks or a froyo or both. I don’t think we have one on this block.

  • I think Mario’s got scared of Z Burger. I don’t blame them. Z Burger got the best burgers in the world.

  • Lee-n-GLebe

    In other real estate rumors, the Optimists are saying that they may not be in the Wells Fargo (at Lee-n-Glebe!) parking lot next year because WF has sold off that lot and it will be occupied by a free-standing Starbucks.
    The fact that they’re saying it is true, I have no idea about the veracity of the rumor itself.

    • John

      I hope the Starbucks will have a 24/7 drive thru.

      • Josh S

        Yeah, introducing the Starbucks drive-thru to the area would be the only reason to build a free-standing SB in that location, right? Cause I thought they had announced a couple of years ago that they were no longer pursuing the saturation strategy in the US.

        • Gross

          Why not a Dunkin Donuts, it’s superior to Starbucks. There is already a Starbucks every 20 feet in Arlington.

  • Arlington Born & Bred

    This is so dissappointing! I am a second generation Mario’s eater (my 19yo son is third generation) and to think that it will go away is almost to depressing for me Lefty and Joe have been part of my growing up almost like family. I know that when they shut down and they will likely do so I’m pretty sure they won’t come back to a new slick Marios in a redeveloped building because it won’t be the same and it won’t be the place we grew up with. Yes it is a hole in the wall, no it is not gormet food but the memories are beyond compare especially those from the 1980’s, we had alot of fun back then and I for one would really miss it.

  • JnA

    Another mess in the making….980 more parking spaces for non-resident office workers…residents in the neighborhood go on a car free diet. Oh, the developers and county staff planners are also non-residents.

  • iiandyiiii

    Crappy pizza, decent cheesesteaks, nice, greasy omelette sandwiches. But those decent cheesesteaks (and omelette sandwiches) are HUGE. Good for late nights and late morning hangovers.

  • Hasdrupal

    Face it. Arlington is yuppie land now. Mario’s is a dump. Pio pios is disgusting and empty. There is no place for them in our pristine, ecology perfect, socialist county.

  • w-in-va

    Over here, we love Mario’s Pizza. There’s a secret ingredient in the sauce that makes it particularly tasty.

  • neerveer

    Can you imagine a Bob & Ediths there…? Oh yeah! Toast , syrup, potatoes, coffee,pie Full service diner? 24 hours? Yes!

  • alan levine


    It is The American Way. Mario’s will be a legend in this community for many years to come and the mere fact that 4 of the employees have been there for over 50 years and are still there, speaks volumes and also explains some of the service issues. Nobody ever gets fired or laid off there because they are too old, and seemingly, no one ever dies that works there.


    I am the seller here and I DID GET MY PRICE AT AUCTION. if that block were easy to assemble, i would have done it myself. Mario’s was the very first fast food in Arlington and has served Presidents since Eisenhower.


    • Linda Yeatman Knoche

      Thanks Alan! Well said! Love Mario’s, Lefty, Joe abd the guys and the memories!

  • Dex

    It’s about time! I loved this place when I was kid but the food lost it’s quality of the years and so did the customer service.

    Let’s move on!


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