Review of Ghigarelli's in Old Forge PA
Sun, 04/30/06 7:38 PM
Well, we finally got here. This is the place that everyone's said is the best. Forget Arcaro & Genell's, they say. You'll never go back to Revello's they say. Are they right? Well, no on either count, and maybe a little bit on both.
First, this place is a real old time joint. It looks OK from the outside, but the inside is best described as "run down". We walked in through what seems to be the janitor closet; at the end you turn left into the (all smoking tables) dining room, or right into the bar area. Both are fully lit; the bar tables are all in a line like in a cafeteria, and at 6PM on a Saturday there were some pretty serious drinkers who looked like they'd been pounding 'em down all day, and who weren't going home soon either. The dining room had one setup for 30, and maybe 10 tables for 2 or 4.
We sat at a table in the dining room; there was only one other couple there. In a couple minutes the waitress showed up, and asked what we wanted. I asked for a menu, and she pointed to the little card in the standup on the table; that was the menu. On the one side, pizza; either red with a choice of toppings or white with a choice of plain or broccoli. And on the other side the dinners; potato gnocci with meatballs, spaghetti with meatballs, tripe, linguini with red or white clam sauce, meatball plate, or sausage and peppers. Since we were in Old Forge, we decided on a mix of pizza slices; we got some red with sausage, with pepperoni, and with sausage/mushroom/pepper; and some white plain, and white with broccoli.
Timing was OK enough. I could see the kitchen from my seat, and I will say that it's been a long time since I've seen someone smoking in a kitchen; our waitress was puffing away right by the door. You have to remember where we are, though, in Ghigarelli's in Old Forge. You want hoity-toity, well, they don't need you either. This is a joint.
On to the food, though! Here's the good part. The crust. Oh man, this is the crust. It is crusty. It is thin, and it breaks like a cracker. The crust is a rebake; it is a shell, but I don't think it's an Augustini Bakery shell. It seems homemade. And it tastes like really great Italian bread. The red sauce is pretty good; it's sweet and oniony, not real oregany, not very garlicky. Ghigarelli's uses mozzarella for their cheese (Revello's uses Monterey Jack). The white is a double crust with the cheese in the middle, brushed with olive oil, rosemary and garlic and other savory herbs. The mozzarella runs out of the cut like warm brie; there is twice as much crust. I'll say it again: twice as much crust. Slices run about a buck each, by the way.
The sensation of eating an Old Forge pizza cut is really one of accepting the beauty of simple things. Crust. Sauce. Cheese. Eat. Repeat. Have a beer while you're at it. I'd say that these slices are the equal of Revello's. Because of the crust, maybe a little bit better...
But here's the rub. The toppings. Seriously, if you come to Ghigarelli's and get the pizza, skip the toppings. The sausage is from frozen. The peppers are canned sweet peppers. The mushrooms are canned. The broccoli is frozen. The pepperoni is, well, pepperoni. At Revello's, the sausage is the same sausage they serve in their sausage and pepper dish. The meatballs are the homemade meatballs. The peppers and onions are freshly cooked. Only the mushrooms are canned. At Arcaro & Genell's, all toppings are fresh, as is the broccoli in the stuffed white pizza.
So there you have it. A little bit of both. Some folks with a small town perspective on things, putting out an excellent product that they don't really seem to think about or care much about. "Excellent pizza? Yeah, what's it to you? Some kinda big deal or what? Here, have some canned peppers, that'll shut you up. We got drinkin' ta do." If you want a restaurant, go to A&G. If you want consistently excellent with "extras", go to Revello's. If you want a very narrow and limited definition of the best, go to Ghigarelli's and avoid the extras, get plain red and plain white. For those items, they found the bullseye and can hit it repeatedly.
On the other hand, we were stuffed full for well under $20; with sodas, tax and a $3 tip we were out the door for $17 even and took a slice we couldn't eat home with us. And for food the quality of Old Forge pizza you can't beat that with a stick.