Mario Haddad Jr, Entrepreneur & Gourmet Restaurateur Cooks Especially for Kamsyn

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Mario Haddad Jr. is a young Entrepreneur, Restaurateur and Owner of several acclaimed establishments in Beirut, such as the Sushi Bar, The Junkyard and The Jasmine Room. We met him at his Italian restaurant, Mario e Mario, in Mar Mikhael, where he expertly prepared two exclusive recipes for KAMSYN readers.

Before we reveal the specifics of each recipe, allow us to introduce you to the Maestro himself, who happily agreed to answer the questions of our contributor Tylia El Helou, while working his magic in the kitchen. (video below)

Mario Haddad Jr          Photo DR

How did you start your career as a restaurateur ?

I studied Cinematography and Photography and then pursued studies of International Business in London. I later came back to Lebanon to work for the family business (a movie distribution company). Early on, I started feeling that something was missing. I wasn’t creating something new. So, the company put me in charge of the Marketing department,  it was fun for a while, but I really wanted to create something innovative; and the only thing that really interested me, aside from cinematography, was cooking.

Mario e Mario  Italian Restaurant in Mar Mikhael   Photo DR

When I was about 25, I decided to open a restaurant. And I did ! My first restaurant was a sushi restaurant, the Sushi Bar. I thought that opening a Japanese restaurant that served sushi was going to be the easiest thing to do, since the cuisine mainly consisted of raw fish. It really didn’t sound complicated at first. Also, there were no Sushi restaurants at the time. I struggled at first, because I didn’t have a lot of money and my dad was completely against the whole idea.


Mario Jr with his father Mario Haddad   Photo KAMSYN

Nonetheless, I stood my ground and made it work. I tried to apply for bank loans, but when I saw the amount of paperwork it required, I was completely discouraged. I decided to ask for my friends’ help instead. Some of them were interested by the project, lent me some money and became my partners.

However, the first 30 days or so of the Sushi Bar were an utter disaster, people were eating for free and spreading the word around town that the Sushi Bar served free food. It ended up working in our favour, though, and it evolved into an amazing Marketing Campaign.We were pre-booked for weeks in advance. Soon after, we became very successful and started making a profit.


Mario e Mario’s terrace     Photo Kamsyn


What about Mario e Mario ?

Mario e Mario is my fourth restaurant and it’s my baby. I hold it very close to my heart: it is a love project. It is dedicated to my father Mario Haddad Sr. and our mutual love for Italian food. Also, at Mario e Mario, we pride ourselves in serving Italian cuisine that is focused on fresh and seasonal ingredients and produce. We do not serve the typical pasta dishes that you find in Italian restaurants across Lebanon.

Mario Haddad Jr with his father for delicious pasta & family time   Photo DR


How do you explain this connection to Italian cuisine ?

I grew up in a home where Italian cuisine held a very special place in our lives. My father is the head of the Italian Academy of Gastronomy, fluent in Italian and lover of all things Italian. We basically had pasta and risotto everyday in our household. Moreover, our holidays were spent in Italy, so I’m very attached to Italian food.


What is the thing you like most about food ?

I am not just a big lover of food ! I mean, obviously, I love eating, but my main passion is feeding people. I enjoy cooking for them and I take pleasure in the interaction of feeding someone. I hear a lot of people say: ‘I love eating, so I should open a restaurant’. For me, this was definitely not the case. Whenever I am alone, I don’t often cook for myself. I don’t have the same pleasure in doing so.


What is a perfect meal in your opinion ?

In my opinion, aside from Italian Cuisine, a plate full of Labneh drizzled with olive oil and topped with my special spice blend is close to perfection !

In the Kitchen   Photo KAMSYN


Why did you choose to prepare these two specific Italian dishes for us ?

We are doing 2 special dishes that are not featured on our menu, and that are exclusively prepared for KAMSYN. We are only using seasonal ingredients, which is our philosophy here, at Mario e Mario. We’re doing a homemade gnocchi with a broccoli pesto, because this vegetable is in season now, it is fresh and very uncommon to use in a pesto.

The second dish we’re preparing is a spaghetti dish with red mullet, which is also a very unusual dish. I specifically chose red mullet because it’s very Mediterranean, it’s in season, it’s fresh and it’s locally sourced.

What are the Wine pairings you would suggest for these dishes you prepared for KAMSYN ?

The spaghetti dish goes really well with a dry and crisp white wine, such as a Vermentino. As for the gnocchi dish, a red Tuscan Chianti Wine compliments it really well, since the broccoli and pine nuts have a very nutty flavour profile.

And now, without any further ado, here are the 2 exclusive Mario e Mario recipes exclusively elaborated for KAMSYN:

Gnocchi di Patate con Pesto di Broccoli    Photo Kamsyn


Gnocchi di Patate con Pesto di Broccoli

Ingredients (for one portion):

230g of homemade or store-bought gnocchi (cooked)

40g of sliced cherry tomatoes

1 clove of garlic (peeled and thinly sliced)

For the Broccoli pesto, you’ll need:

100g of broccolis

40g of pine nuts

50g of olive oil

1 clove of garlic (peeled)

10 basil leaves

50g of grated Pecorino cheese

Salt and pepper to taste


–         Blend all the pesto ingredients in a mixer, until it reaches a silky and homogenous consistency.

–         Sauté the cherry tomatoes with a clove of garlic and olive oil. Once the tomatoes are ready, add in the cooked gnocchi and stir it thoroughly. You can add a little bit of stock as well for extra flavor.

–         Remove the gnocchi preparation from the heat and add the broccoli pesto to the mix.

–         Plate and serve the dish with some grated pecorino cheese on top.

Spaghetti con Triglie e Pomodorini         Photo KAMSYN


Spaghetti con Triglie e Pomodorini

Ingredients (for one portion):

120g of cooked spaghetti (al dente)

100g of red mullet (cleaned, scaled and cut into thick strips)

40g of sliced cherry tomatoes

30g of pitted black olives

1 clove of garlic (peeled and thinly sliced)

40g of olive oil

2 tablespoons of tomato sauce

25g of chopped chives

25g of chopped parsley

100ml of warm stock

A splash of a dry white wine

Salt and pepper to taste


–         Sauté the garlic, cherry tomatoes and parsley in a hot skillet with some olive oil and then add the olives and red mullet fillets to the mix.

–         Slowly add the stock and the tomato sauce.

–         Once the pasta is ready, pour it directly to the sauce until well combined.

–         Plate and serve with an extra drizzle of olive oil and an additional sprinkle of chives.

Once these two dishes were ready, we couldn’t wait to try them… We will let you in on a little secret: both dishes were absolutely delicious ! Perfectly balanced and seasoned, the spaghetti and the gnocchi dishes were so well executed that they literally melt in your mouth.

We hope you enjoyed this cooking segment brought to you by Mario e Mario and KAMSYN, We wish you Buon Appetito!

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 Tylia El Helou for KAMSYN November 2016.