Papa Joe's (Second Visit)
Akron, Ohio    Date of Visit:  03/27/15
 Click Here for Original Visit

As we’re catching up on some old haunts, we’re in the valley at Papa Joe’s. Still a large and tastefully appointed place with a worn feel. Our server tonight was excellent but there were a few shortcomings on the plate we hadn’t noticed previously.

  There are always warm and crusty rolls served with a nice salty whipped butter, it's also the kind of place that will keep your basket stocked if you are a fiend for bread.

They serve a salad of mixed sweet and bitter greens with dressings good enough to get most non-veggie eaters to work their way to the end. At least the end of the dressing.

The zucchini fretto are nice but the way they are cut requires them to be fried to the point of mushiness and the tasty batter is barley able to maintain a toe hold on the veg. They do serve the platter with a small kiddie pool of ranch, which is nice but makes the breading more likely to end up in floating in the ranch than in your mouth. I tried their chicken livers for the first time. There were tasty but a little more sherry flavor from the sauté would have made a world of improvement.


Warm Happiness

Their Salad Dressings Are Reason To Not Skip The Greens


Huge and Tasty But Flawed Zucchini

Livers Could Use More Punch But Start With Nice Ingredients

  Their chicken francaise is still remarkable and really worth the effort. Steph just has them put the side of pasta (typically on the side with house marinara) beneath the huge portion of chicken and cover both in the butter and lemon sauce.

I tried the eggplant, which only makes me sad Antenucci’s was closed. No one has yet to take thick slices of veg and turn them into the magic they could. Here’s the thing though…didn’t think they would get all the way there on the eggplant…thought their pasta would be way better. I don’t remember their sauce being anything like this on our first trip, but I detested it this time. My suspicion is it hadn’t cooked down enough. Sharply acidic nearly raw tomato, basil so strong it seemed more a perfume than ingredient, and nothing else to redeem it. Still not bad for the area, but definitely much less successful than our first visit.


Their Francaise IS Excellent

But Their Flowery Marianara Turns Me Off

  Change in Ranking        
  Original Score Which Way? New Score Why For?  
  B C Just Not As Good As Our First Trip  
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Papa Joe's (Iacomini)
 Akron, Ohio               Date of Visit: 06/05/10        

The quest continues. Someone in Akron has got to be churning out respectable Italian fare. For a switch, we left an Italian restaurant without being completely disappointed. Down in the Valley, the Valley so low, we had dinner at Papa Joe Iacomini’s. It is a large, dark and cavernous building, it feels very Italian. Varieties of seating options, earthy tones on everything, darkly clad servers whisking through the rooms.

A note about the service, they make a great impression by paying attention to some of the classical steps to keeping your customers happy. Salads arrive on cold plates, the bread is steaming hot and is served with warm bread plates. The servers will pepper your soups and salads, pack your left-overs, and know the menu up and down. Over all they did a nice job.



Very Classic Lobster Bisque

The menu is just what you would expect. The place smelled good. These are not good combinations. We went to town, Lobster Bisque (only every. Fri & Sat.), deep-fried smoked Provolone wedges with marinara and pesto, chicken parm, chicken francaise, meatballs, sausage, sides of spaghetti, and cannoli. Let’s just say we brought more home than we could possibly eat.

The Lobster Bisque was very old world. Almost paste thick, but delicious, with strong flavors of lobster and brandy. I restored my faith in Bisques after my most recent tasting. Thinking about it now, everything about Papa Joe’s is Olde World (yes I thought the spelling was funny, sue me). This sense of classic-esq-ness is not a bad thing…it feels very homey in many ways. The fried cheese was perfect and the combination of classic sauces contributed exceptionally. The breading on the parm gave a crispy crunch to tender and juicy chicken breasts which had to have weighed a pound apiece.

Steaming Rolls (n Real Butter)

House Salad comes with White French

Smoked Provolone, Marinara and Pesto


Their red sauce has a very bold acidic tomatoiness and a definite note of crushed pepper flakes in addition to the regular horde of herbs and spices. Pasta had bite and a stickiness that held on to gravy like Velcro. The sausage was a perfectly good Italian sweet and sets well with the marinara.

Now the most memorable items. The meatballs are far from my favorite, they are familiar to me as well. There are a number of place in Youngstown which produce a similar soft and spongy textured meatball that has a particular lingering flavor I find unappealing.

Chicken Parmagiana so Big the Flash couldn't Illuminate
the Back Forty

Chicken Francaise!!!

Sweet Italian Sausage

Excellent Cannoli

The Chicken Francaise was stupendous, rimming with butter, white wine, butter, herbs, butter, lemon, butter, a shroomy earthiness, and just a little pat of butter. This one is a classic for a reason. Lastly the cannoli were unusually good. Crispy cookie filled with sweetened cheese studded with chocolate chips and that often missed hint of pistachio, it was like being home.

While many restaurants are pushing the boundaries and introducing the avant garde, Papa Joe’s reminds me what it was like to discover how different Italian restaurants could be when I was little, so many family recipies, so many different combinations of simple ingredients. It was a nice meal, more expensive than you will find an hour east but a good night out. I once heard Chef Keller (French Laundry/Bouchon) talk about evoking memories being as important as flavor and tonight I had a nice and comfortable trip down memory lane, right here in Akron.


They Portion Like Italians as Well
Here is What We Couldn't Possibly Finish




What's Best

What's Worst

  A- A A- A C- B  
        No Single Standout That Damn Meatball    
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