Papa J’s Ristorante – Carnegie Borough
Carnegie isn’t that nice of a neighborhood. I
live lived in Carnegie so I’m allowed to make that statement. It’s not the worst area, but it is literally on the wrong side of the tracks when compared to the suburbs of Scott or Mount Lebanon.
On more than one summer evening I was treated to the scent of marijuana wafting through my open windows. There was also a plethora of shady characters that I had to run past during my 4-mile loop through the neighborhood, and they appeared to be up to far more nefarious activities than just smokin’ weed*.
My house was broken into a few years ago and the subsequent interaction with a borough policeman left me with a less than comfortable feeling about the public servants as well:
Policeman: Do you have any ideas who would have done this?
Me: No, not really.
Policeman: And all they stole is money and your Bose stereo?
Me: Yes. I haven’t noticed anything else missing.
Policeman: Is that real wine in your wine-rack?
Me: Um, yes.
Policeman: That’s important because if teenagers were behind this then they would have definitely stolen the alcohol. That rules them out.
Policeman:So you don’t have any ideas on who it might be?
Policeman: Well, I guess we’ll just have to chalk this one up to an unsolved mystery.
After this thorough investigation was complete he left my house - only to return five minutes later upon realizing he’d left his car keys and handcuffs on my dining room table. Why he removed them from his belt as he looked around my house I will never know. I’m just glad he didn’t leave behind a prisoner as well.
Now to Papa J’s. On a
recent past summer night my wife and I decided to go green and walk to Papa J’s instead of hopping in our car and heading into Pittsburgh. The restaurant is located on Main Street in Carnegie which was flooded horribly by Hurricane Ivan back in September 2004.
The area doesn’t bear many wounds from that catastrophe any longer, though there were a number of businesses that left after the flood and never came back. Regardless, Papa J’s was standing before the disaster and is now looking better than ever with the recent addition of an open-air bar/party room extension next door.
Upon arrival I ordered a Hoegaarden (4.9% ABV – Witbier) and a caprese salad as a starter. I was having quite a summer romance with caprese salads back then but this one failed to live up to the high standard set by amazing hook-ups at the Grand Concourse and Sea Salt.
The tomatoes really didn’t look that fresh and they tasted how they looked. For dinner I selected the Spinach & Feta Farfalle with roasted garlic, pignoli nuts and diced tomato prepared aglio e olio. I’ve had this dish before at Papa J’s and thought it was delicious, but on this evening I ended up severely disappointed.
The pasta came in a bowl rather than the usual plate and this made it seem like I was fishing for bow-ties in a tub of olive oil. I love EVOO as much as the next guy, but this was just way too much**. I didn’t even finish my meal which is saying a lot for a good-eater like me. The service at Papa J’s was a little rough around the edges but friendly, which is a good description of Carnegie as well.
Final Call: Papa J’s isn’t consistent enough to be a great restaurant, but it’s by far the best in Carnegie. Unfortunately, that’s like being the hottest girl at Jack’s on a Tuesday night.
* My wife grew up in the suburbs of Buffalo and so she always calls weed “pot.” I grew up in the inner-city neighborhood of Knoxville so I reference it by over a dozen different names like: ganja, bud, herb, trees, sticky-icky, broccoli, chronic, buddha, hay, bud, haze, Mary Jane, skunk, ‘dro, cheeba, dank…