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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Papa Van's, North Goodman St.

Papa Van's Eatery on Urbanspoon
Pizza Guy Note, Sept. 2012: I believe that Papa Van's is now closed. At least it looked closed last time I drove by.
Papa Van's is at the northwest corner of North Goodman and Clifford in Rochester. It seems to be a successor of sorts to Al’s Green Pizzeria, which was formerly open at the southeast corner of the same intersection. I don’t know if there’s any actual connection between the two, but when I went to Al’s Green a few months ago, the sign on the door said that it was reopening at the opposite corner. I’ve also never understood the exact connection between Al’s Green Pizzeria and Al’s Green Tavern next door, which has to qualify as one of Rochester’s most authentic dive bars.
Before I get to the pizza, one observation: there’s another place serving pizza, Chicken Mom’s (f/k/a Chicken Tom’s) right across Clifford Ave. So you’ve got Papa and Mom competing with each other at that intersection. Well, I thought it was amusing, anyway. (The lady at Chicken Mom’s - Chicken Mom herself, perhaps? - was just beginning to stretch out the pizza dough at the time of my visit, so that will be a review for another day.)
Papa Van's describes itself as a “South Philly Market Place.” I’m not sure what that means exactly, but they do have pizza, which is what I was interested in. The layout is kind of strange, with an entrance on Goodman and another on Clifford. The pizza counter is separated from the rest of the store, and is accessible only through the Goodman St. entrance.
I got myself a cheese slice, which was cut from a pie that had just come out of the oven. It was screen baked - *sigh* - but otherwise not a bad looking slice, with a thin to medium crust and a brown, dry underside. It was not especially crisp, but neither was it soft; “firm” might be the best way to describe it.
The crust showed some evidence of having risen, and had a decent texture, but the flavor was somewhere between doughy and bready.
The sauce and cheese were both applied in good balance with the crust, if a bit sloppily, reaching nearly to the outer edge at one end of the slice but over two inches away at the other. The sauce had an herbal flavor, and the slightly browned cheese appeared to be straight mozzarella, although my tastebuds also seemed to pick up some other flavor that I was unable to identify.
Papa Van's pizza menu is fairly standard, with about 20 available toppings and no specialty pizzas other than white pizza. They also do "foot long stromboli," calzones, wings, burgers, hot and cold subs, and of course, Philly Cheese Steaks, described as "9th Street Style" (which presumably would mean something to somebody from Philadelphia). They also offer fried chicken and seafood platters, pulled pork, ribs, several beef dishes from meatloaf to N.Y. strip steak, oxtails, "disaster dishes" (i.e. garbage plates), and pasta. Sides include candied yams, collard greens, and mac 'n' cheese. There are also several dessert options including cobblers, cakes, and sweet potato pie. Soft drinks only.
I don't know about the rest of the food - I'm always wary of a place that tries to do too many things - but although this wasn't world class pizza, it honestly wasn't bad, especially at just a buck-fifty a slice. The crust could've been a little crisper, but it was reasonably well balanced, and the flavor was OK overall, so I'll give it a slightly above average B-.
Papa Van's South Philly Market Place, 1175 N. Goodman St. 288-1850, 288-2240
Sun. - Thu. 10 a.m. - midnight, Fri. & Sat. 10 a.m. - 2 a.m.


  1. Hmm... place looks intriguing... but its on Clifford? Is that a safe area? (i want my car to still be there if i go in for a slice)

  2. It's not an area I'd want to spend a lot of time in, but to park your car nearby and walk in for a slice during the day, I wouldn't worry.

  3. This was the WORST pizza Iever had. We ordered it asa delivery and after an hour and a half we finally got it. If it wasn't for my kids being hungry, I would have told the driver to take it back. Weordered a large pizza that was COLD. a dozon and a half wings that were luke warm, and the WORST was the Fried Dough. It was herendous! Full of oil,and jamed into this small boxthat was wrapped in plastic wrap. We through them right out. Not even suitable for my dog. I ratethis placewith a big "F";

  4. Wow, sorry to hear about that. I honestly wasn't expecting much when I went in because these inner city places typically don't have very good pizza, and because there were some scathing reviews of Papa Van's on the RocWiki site. But my slice wasn't too bad. Thanks for adding your experience.

  5. Great food, especially the fried chicken. I never would have thought to order delivery from there though. These little independently owned take out places in hard scrabble city neighborhoods cannot afford to pay drivers, so the quality of delivery service almost invariably sucks. How's about this, Mr, next time, get off your lazy arse and go pick it up yourself?!?!?!

  6. The food was fanatic, the $5.00 Menu is just the right price after a night at the bar. Ten diffrent opitons and fast service. Great choice for late night(open til' 4am thursay-saturday), fast, great food.

  7. I used to stay around the corner from Papa Vans and would visit frequently when getting off work. The staff are extremely pleasant and the food is good. Some of the best greens next to my own and the stomboli is very good. For the one man who said he was leary of places which have such a wide variety of menu items he really should try more than just a slice of pizza. The young lady who takes her time every day to bake and decorate the cakes and pies fresh is such a plus. The tripe and oxtails are also a plus as is the pulled pork and wings.