Friday, Nov. 6, 2009 | 5:31 p.m.
Dan Marino is hoping to score a touchdown in the Las Vegas restaurant market.
The former Miami Dolphins quarterback is the star investor in a Florida-based pizza franchise and, in a Hail Mary move of sorts, the chain opened its first Las Vegas location this summer.
Marino was in town on Wednesday to attend Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza’s grand opening event at Town Square.
“This is the first time I’ve been here,” the 48-year-old said as he stood out front of the bustling restaurant.
“It’s beautiful here,” he added, smiling as his gaze panned across the premium retail complex. “The whole place is really nice.”
Marino became an investor in Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza after befriending restaurateur Anthony Bruno. The two met back when Marino was just starting his NFL career as a rookie Dolphin.
“I’ve known Anthony for over 25 years,” Marino said. “He’s been a friend and we started a few pizza places a few years back and I’ve been involved with them as an investor and someone who’s kind of helped them along the way.”
“We’re doing great,” Marino said, smiling once again as he looked inside the restaurant.
The staff was in constant motion, serving samples of signature items to tables of invited guests.
Anthony’s menu revolves around dishes prepared in the restaurant’s distinctive coal-burning oven, namely well-done thin crust pizzas and oven-baked chicken wings. Oversized meatballs, broccoli rabe mixed with sausage, and Marino’s namesake eggplant Parmesan round out the list of house specialties.
While the eggplant bares the Marino name, the retired quarterback can’t take credit for the recipe.
Instead, he says it’s a family favorite more than anything else – a personal favorite, actually.
“In Anthony’s regular restaurant that he has in Ft. Lauderdale … he has an eggplant dish there that I always used to order, so he just started calling it ‘Eggplant Marino’,” he explained.
He also mentions the chicken wings when asked about menu must-haves.
Marino has been keeping busy since retiring from the NFL in 1999. He currently appears on CBS’s NFL Today every Sunday and continues to dabble in film.
“If it comes up and it’s fun, I’ll do it. Otherwise, I’m not pursuing it,” he said of the Hollywood side projects. His most recent roles included cameos in 2003’s Bad Boys II and 2000’s Little Nicky, and 10 years ago, he served as a consultant on Oliver Stone’s football epic, Any Given Sunday.
Before that, however, Marino made his silver screen debut in 1994 alongside Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.
“When I did that movie I didn’t think it was going to be a hit,” he recalled.
“I always tell people that I made Jim Carrey’s career: If it wasn’t for me, he would be nothing,” Marino joked.
Still, he admitted that he and the funnyman actor have fallen out of touch.
“I haven’t talked to him in probably 10 years,” he said.
While Marino hasn’t heard from Carrey in a while, he still hears about the movie all the time.
He said fans are constantly referencing the film and playfully reminding him, “laces out.” (As part of the film’s plot, he is accused of mishandling a snap and costing the Dolphins the Super Bowl.)
Still, even after 15 years of frequent teasing, the ever-affable Marino remains both patient and gracious.
“They do [bring it up] a lot,” he said of his “laces out” savvy fans.
Instead of letting it get to him, though, Marino simply flashes his pearly whites and shrugs. “It’s cool.”