Papalinos Pizza was such a go-to in the Highlands for a time, that when it closed, the disappointment was palpable. Gone was a laid-back, unique place to go for a delicious, well-priced slice at just about any time of day.
Founder Allan Rosenberg moved on to open the short-lived Fontleroy’s, but he’s once again in the business of Italian food, including New York-style pizzas that are more than a little reminiscent of the Papalinos heyday.
I stopped into the recently opened Butchertown Pizza Hall, located in the former space of neighborhood mainstay Hall’s Cafeteria, for lunch and was immediately struck at just how different the place looked.
A small dining area features a modern yet laid-back atmosphere, with a few tables and a counter for ordering. In back, there’s a small arcade, and along one wall sits a nicely stocked bar complete with all the fizzy yellow beer you could ever hope for.
I found my friend Greg seated at the bar, awaiting my arrival for a lunch meet-up. We perused the menu, which features wings and bread knots as appetizers, a handful of salads, several different hoagies and, of course, pizza by the slice and the whole pie.
I decided to kick things off with a half-dozen wings tossed in buffalo sauce, although the roasted garlic parmesan and zesty Asian were tempting as well.
Greg, meanwhile, took a more healthful approach and ordered a small “local salad,” so-named because all or most of the ingredients are sourced locally.
It didn’t take long for the tasty-looking salad to come out, and the wings weren’t far behind.
The salad, featuring mixed greens, goat cheese, dried cranberries, pine nuts and house-made balsamic vinaigrette,was small-ish, but well worth the $4 price tag. The mild goat cheese was particularly tasty, and the vinaigrette was so good I wished I’d gotten the same salad. I’m just happy Greg was willing to share a bite.
The wings were medium-sized and meaty, and I had to actually ask the runner if they indeed were buffalo. Why? Because the sauce was such a pale orange that they almost looked yellow, causing me to wonder if I’d been served the wrong wings. I was assured they were indeed buffalo style, so I dug in, with Greg’s help.
The sauce was mild, and to my palate could have used some more pepper, but the wings were quality chicken and well-cooked.
For our main course, we each got a slice, which start at a very reasonable $3.50 each. On mine, I added pepperoni and roasted red peppers, while Greg topped his with Berkshire ham, tomatoes and mushrooms.
When the slices came out, I immediately remembered just how massive the pieces were at Papalinos. It’s no different at Butchertown Pizza Hall, as both slices were bigger than our faces.
The crispy, Italian crust is perhaps a tad less pliable than the pies I remember at Papalinos, but it was easily as tasty, and the slice was not at all greasy. Meanwhile, the ingredients tasted fresh, and the flavors blended subtly.
The pepperoni on my pie was large-sliced and quite thin — but with an assertive, lightly spicy flavor. The peppers were lightly roasted and tender, with plenty of fresh flavor, and the mozzarella and mild marinara sauce were conservatively applied yet not undersold.
Greg inhaled his slice, although I did manage to steal a mushroom or two and a piece of ham. I think he may have made a better call with his topping choices, although I wasn’t complaining. Adding $1 per topping, my giant slice was only $5.50, and I couldn’t even finish it.
When you put together all the elements at Butchertown Pizza Hall — reasonable prices, quality food, a laid-back atmosphere, games, drinks — it’s hard to imagine this not sticking around a while. And then you consider the tagline of, “Great pizza, shitty beer,” notice that Coors Banquet and Miller High Life, among others, are always on draft, and what you’ve got is a fine neighborhood establishment. It should serve the area, and the memory of Hall’s, well.
Butchertown Pizza Hall, located at 1301 Story Ave., is open Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-midnight, and Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m.