As recently as Sept. 12, Papalinos announced on its Facebook page that it had updated its website to include new menus for both of its locations. Just over two weeks later, it announced the popular Highlands location, at 947 Baxter Ave., was closing.
But according to a spokesman, the Highlands Papalinos isn’t closing so much as it is looking for a different space. The location it had been in for its entire run in the Highlands – there is also a Springhurst location that will continue to operate – was small, to say the least, with just three or four tables off to one side of the long narrow restaurant. Perhaps Papalinos, a popular carry-out business, wants more room for on-site dining?
“We love being in the Highlands and want to continue to make the best pizza for our faithful followers,” Papalinos spokesman Luke Blackburn said in a prepared statement posted on the website and on Facebook. “And while Baxter Avenue was our beginning, the site has experienced difficulties and is not the best for our new format in line with our new Italian Pub concept. We know it will be an inconvenient gap as we relocate and re-build, but we are confident that a new home will carry on our great Papalinos Pizza experience and then some.”
In a follow-up interview, Blackburn suggested the closing that surprised fans of the pizzeria was somewhat of a surprise to the restaurant owners and staff as well.
“The decision was a pretty quick one due to circumstances out of our control,” he said, “so we are just now figuring out next moves.”
He said “lease issues” played a role, but it was primarily a decision borne of need and long-term profitability. Renovations were needed to follow the “Italian pub concept” theme and to ensure profitability of the small space, but those didn’t seem to be forthcoming.
“We couldn’t invest the money into that site without a settled agreement, so that pushed the decision forward,” he said, though he would not elaborate further. “I wish I had more information, but right now we are working on integrating the Highlands team into Springhurst. We will begin laying out plans soon though.”
The Springhurst location has a full bar with several taps pouring craft beer, plus special Italian cocktails, Italian wines and more. Heck, the restaurant even has a custom-designed charcuterie room in full view of diners. Yep, that sounds like an Italian pub; meanwhile, the Highlands location was more like a true New York eatery where you could stop in for a slice of pie on a paper plate and eat it on the go.
“We don’t want to mess with what makes us a favorite, but we know we can do so much more with the brand in the right location,” Blackburn said in the prepared statement.
In the meantime, lovers of the New York-style pizza that was consistently ranked best in the city by local publications will have to wait. And hope. And wonder what a new Papalinos location might bring.