Weekend in Northeast PA

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buffetbuster
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2009/03/24 14:22:46 (permalink)

Weekend in Northeast PA

My cousin Johnny and I recently spent a weekend in northeast Pennsylvania visiting restaurants and meeting some other Roadfooders.  Two of the guys we met, Mosca and JoeRogo have already posted wonderful photos and descriptions in this thread here:
 
http://www.roadfood.com/Forums/Pics-from-NE-PA-meet-up-m496719.aspx
 
On the Friday night, Johnny and I planned to meet in the town of Girardville for dinner at Marrone's, which appears in the 2008 Roadfood book.  When I pulled up around 8:30PM, Johnny was already sitting outside, ready to go.  Even though we weren't that far off of I-81 and Girardville wasn't that small of a town, we still felt in the middle of nowhere.
 
Marrone's

is a tavern that is best known for their Old Forge style pizza.  We walked in and grabbed a seat in the dining room, where the attractive blonde waitress greeted us.  Sometimes when you walk into a restaurant in a small town, they view strangers suspiciously.  But we were treated like old friends.  Here is the menu page for the pizza.

Nothing too exotic there.
 
Since neither one of us had eaten since lunch, we were ready to do some serious eating.  Johnny started off with the fried provolone sticks for an appetizer. 

He thought they were very good, although I thought they were too lightly breaded.  My appetizer was something called Mini-Beenies.  When I saw it on the menu, I asked Johnny if he knew what it was.  An avid follower of the Food Network, he correctly guessed that it was small potato pancakes.

When we saw how small they were, we figured they must be dried out.  We were happily wrong.  A nice crispy exterior with a creamy inside, these were a big hit.  Johnny figured out the best way to eat them was to slather them with the sour cream and then add another layer of the hot sauce the waitress brought for our pizza.  Absolutely delicious!  Since I had never seen these before, I asked the waitress who told me they were a common dish in this area.
 
With plenty of appetite to go around, we also decided to split an order of the lasagna.  The waitress told the kitchen we were splitting it and they brought it out in two seperate plates for us, which we appreciated.  I have to admit to not being a big lasagna fan (I ordered it because I know it is a favorite of Johnny's), but this was clearly the best lasagna I have had.

The lasagna noodles were heavy duty and thick and worked well with the dark, sweet chunky sauce.  Oh, that amazing sauce!  This sauce was lick the plate clean good!  The lasagna came with some wonderful, spicy Italian sausage,

again drowned in that sauce.  There hasn't been a day gone by since this meal I haven't craved that lasagna and sauce!
 
Finally, the pizza came out and we realized immediately our mistake.  From reading previously, I knew that Old Forge style pizza worked best when it was kept simple, with maybe just cheese as a topping.  We loaded it down with pepperoni and mushrooms.

We found the pizza to be overly doughy, with a thick, heavy cheese.  Hot sauce did come with the pizza and even though it seemed a little strange, the sauce, which had a nice, mild lingering heat to it, enhanced the pizza.  Knowing we had a bit of a drive ahead of us and a long day tomorrow, we only ate about half of it before getting it boxed up for the road.  We did finish it in the hotel room.
 
Marrone's has plenty of quirks that help make it such an attractive Roadfood spot.  There are buzzers at the table with which you can signal your waitress.

I also met the owner of the place in the bathroom, who quite proudly bragged that they had a celebrity eat here in the 1970s.  None other than Howard Cosell's brother!!!  This is a family place (the two waitresses were his daughters, both in their 40s, I'm guessing) and they were thrilled to find out their inclusion in the Roadfood book.  I would love to come back and explore more of that Italian-American menu.
 
Marrone's
31 W. Main Street
Girardville, PA
570-276-6407 
post edited by buffetbuster - 2009/03/29 20:55:00
#1

103 Replies Related Threads

    Ahi Mpls.
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    Re:Weekend in Northeast PA 2009/03/24 14:55:14 (permalink)
    Oh yes!!! The sausage!!!   I thought that Old forge pizzas were rectanglular ? or am I thinking of something else.... Any way , It's getting very difficult to find a place with good "Italian Grandma" red sauce around here, How I envy you your travels.....     Dawn
    #2
    buffetbuster
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    Re:Weekend in Northeast PA 2009/03/24 15:14:38 (permalink)
    AHI MPLS-
    We were a little surprised ourselves that the pizza was round, since all the Old Forge style pizza I have had before was square.  In the 2008 Roadfood book, Michael Stern calls the pizza here a "unique variation of Old Forge pizza".
    #3
    Nancypalooza
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    Re:Weekend in Northeast PA 2009/03/24 15:21:54 (permalink)
    I have been known to dispatch whatever was in the sauce and eat it by itself or with bread--if you're dreaming about it, I would probably move there to be near it.  And the mini-beenies look great.
    #4
    mar52
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    Re:Weekend in Northeast PA 2009/03/24 16:28:58 (permalink)
    How neat!  I like the story as much as the meal.

    Please explain Old forge pizza.  Looks like a pizza to me.  What would make it Old Forge?

    Those mini beenies look like heaven on a plate!  But hot sauce?  Where's the applesauce?
    #5
    HotDogHead
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    Re:Weekend in Northeast PA 2009/03/24 16:42:00 (permalink)
    Great report.  All the food looked delicious, including the pizza.  Thanks for sharing.
    #6
    Mosca
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    Re:Weekend in Northeast PA 2009/03/24 17:09:45 (permalink)
    Oh, man. I have been anticipating reading your report! Mini-beenies; I LOVE those!
    #7
    TnTinCT
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    Re:Weekend in Northeast PA 2009/03/24 21:24:07 (permalink)
    That sauce looks amazing - real Italian gravy simmered on the stove for hours.  Did they serve the lasagne with sausage on the side, or was it just included in the extra sauce?
    #8
    Benzee
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    Re:Weekend in Northeast PA 2009/03/24 21:51:00 (permalink)
    Great report ,

    This looks like a nice little place to visit sometime . I agree those potato pamcakes would go good with applesauce .

    Next time a group is heading there for a meet , let me know , it sounds like its worth the trip

    Benzee
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    Boomer247
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    Re:Weekend in Northeast PA 2009/03/24 22:27:25 (permalink)
    BuffetBuster

        I wish I would have known you were coming here from the
    Steel City I would have given you a place to stay and a beer.
        I live pretty close to Girardville. They have 3 real good places
    there to eat one is where you ate and the other  two are just as
    good. One is Centiole's which is just up the block, the pizza is stupid good. The old timer passed away a while ago but his pizza's were very very good. He was like the soup Nazi. Each pizza he sold was boxed and then tied with string on the box like a xmas present he tied everyone hiself. I even crawled into his dumpster once to see what he used to make his sweet sauce. I heard it was jam or jelly.  My boss at work and I would call on Tuesday to order Pizza for Friday. He made x amount of pizzas and when he sold out he closed. But you had to order them by Tuesday. I think his daughter took the business over now.

    The other place you probably walked past was
    Tony's Lunch home of the screamer hamburger. I have never been there and not ordered under 10 burgers, always some to take home. They are very good also and you wait in line allot.
    So when it is your turn you order allot.

    Here is the Coal Region Top Ten Pizza List.
    And like I said if you ever are here close again and
    need some guidance on food in the coal region
    feel free to call 570-648-1235

    I have ate at about 90% of these pizza parlors.

    1. Centiole's - Main Street, Girardville
    This unique, sweet sauce pizza is the hands-down winner of the Coal Region Pizza Poll. You have to order days in advance (especially for a Friday during Lent). Open only in the evenings. When they run out of pies, you're outta luck! As Joe C. says "It's Worth the Weight". It is THE best.
    2. Senape's Tavern Pitza - North Vine Street, Hazleton
    Pronounced "SNAPS". The classic square pizza, available with Scamutz or Romano cheese. This is what's known in the Coal Region as "bar" pizza, and is most commonly eaten cold or at room temperature. The definite fave of the Luzerne County crowd. Best with a pitcher of Yuengling or draft birch beer.
    3. Matucci's - Willow Street, Mt. Carmel
    "Their deluxe pizza is the best in Pennsylvania, perhaps in the whole USA!"
    4. James' Cafe - Pine Street, Shamokin
    Square slices, thin bread, great cheese. Rumors of beer in the sauce. Located in the "Bloody Fifth Ward" in Shamokin. This place hasn't changed since you were a kid.
    5. Duke's / Tower of Pizza - Marion Heights (outside Kulpmont)
    American Cheese that everyone has burned their mouth on at least once!! A great place to get F&S beer.
    6. Marrone's - Girardville
    Way to go, Guntown! Two pizza places in the top ten! In addition to great pizza, Marrone's is everyone's choice for best pizza hot sauce. It's killer!
    7. Pottsville Pizzeria - Pottsville
    Let's hear it for south of the mountain! "Nothing was better than ordering from the Pottsville Pizzeria every Friday night!"
    8. Gutsie's - West Center Street, Mahanoy City
    "The small pies Pete Gutsie made were loaded with tomatoes and cheese, and anything else you wanted. They reeked of oregano, with a hint of basil. I'm sitting here slobbering like one of Pavlov's dogs, da frick! Always washed them down with Kaier's beer."
     9. Little Venice - Main & Lloyd Streets, Shenandoah
    "Without a doubt, the BEST pizza in the entire coal region, perhaps the entire WORLD!"
    10. Grotto's Pizza / Joe's Grotto - Harvey's Lake and Wilkes-Barre
    From the northern reaches, "da best pizza in da region is from Joe's Grotto out da lake!" Honorable Mention
  • Armondo's - Shenandoah
  • The Blue Tavern - outside Llewellyn
  • Chance's Bar and Restaurant - Pottsville, Llewellyn Hwy
  • DeVito's - Ashland
  • DiMaggio's - Tamaqua
  • Gabello's Cafe - Duryea
  • Gilotti's - Mt. Carmel
  • Giorgio's - Frackville
  • Grande Pizza - Tamaqua
  • Hollywood Pizza - Mt. Carmel
  • Januzi's - Wilkes-Barre
  • Marco's - Lansford
  • Mario's - Minersville
  • Mary Rose's - Nesquehoning
  • Mr. Pizza - Shamokin
  • O'Brien's - Shamokin
  • Paesano's - Mahanoy City
  • Palermo's - Minersville
  • Pappa's - Scranton
  • Parmesano's - Tamaqua
  • Revello's - Old Forge
  • Roma's Pizza - Pottsville
  • Rostas's - Hazleton
  • Scicchitano's Buono Pizza - Kulpmont
  • Scully's - Girardville
  • The Pizza Place - Frackville
  • Tillie's Pitz - West Hazleton
  • Tommy's Pizza - Kingston
  • Two Brother's - Jim Thorpe
  • Two King's - Hometown
  • Vesuvio's - Hazleton
  • Victory Pig ("the Pig") - Forty Fort/Wyoming

    Boomer
    Shamokin Pa
      post edited by Boomer247 - 2009/03/24 22:40:09
    • #10
      stanpnepa
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      Re:Weekend in Northeast PA 2009/03/24 23:23:05 (permalink)
      Boomer,
      Great list.  I had a print out of it in the glove compartment of my old car. I will reprint! 
       
      I may have to hit both Marrone's and Centiole's in the same night. 
       
      We had Revello's take-out (3 trays) at a family gathering last week and I am sad to report that it seems to be slipping.  The trays were very uneven (once was saucy, the other was cheesy, and the other was burnt and just not very good).  This was my favorite pizza as a kid---but for the first time ever, I have to take it out of my top ten.  Ghigiarelli's and Pizza Perfect remain my faves...and I also love Senape's.
      #11
      stanpnepa
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      Re:Weekend in Northeast PA 2009/03/24 23:27:14 (permalink)
      Oh, by the way Gabello's has been out of business for about four years.  It slipped badly in the end, but in its heyday turned out great, great pizza---and it always had a kick---maybe some "hot pepper" in the sauce?
       
      The Grotto is also in Edwardsville and Januzzi's (which to me is average) has expanded their locations to Wyoming and somewhere else. 
      #12
      Mosca
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      Re:Weekend in Northeast PA 2009/03/24 23:42:08 (permalink)
      Januzzi's = awful, approx same as Domino's. Maybe worse. I think I would eat Domino's, or Digiorno, before I would eat another pie from Januzzi's.

      I dislike Grotto's pizza. I respect that they are different, but the difference is not for me.

      Buffetbuster... THE PIES! SHOW THE PIES!


      #13
      stanpnepa
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      Re:Weekend in Northeast PA 2009/03/24 23:54:55 (permalink)
      Mosca, I was trying to be nice.  :) 

      #14
      buffetbuster
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      Re:Weekend in Northeast PA 2009/03/25 08:00:46 (permalink)
      mar52
      Please explain Old forge pizza.  Looks like a pizza to me.  What would make it Old Forge?

      Those mini beenies look like heaven on a plate!  But hot sauce?  Where's the applesauce?
      How about one of our NE PA denizens chiming in and explaining Old Forge style pizza, since you guys are the experts.

      Johnny and I often get potato pancakes when we eat together, which works out well since he is a sour cream guy and I prefer apple sauce.  No apple sauce came with this, so it gave me a chance to try something new.  Using the sour cream and the hot sauce, I didn't miss the apple sauce at all!

      TnTinCT-
      The Italian sausage came on the side of the lasagna.  Our waitress also split that in half so we each had our own plate.  They really take good care of you here.

       
      Boomer247-
      Thank you very much for the list and enthusiastic reply.  There is no doubt that this area has many potential excellent Roadfood stops.
       
      Mosca-
      Sorry for the delay in starting this report, but I needed to finish up some others first.  But, you should be seeing some pie shots soon enough! 


      post edited by buffetbuster - 2009/03/25 08:22:19
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      ken8038
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      Re:Weekend in Northeast PA 2009/03/25 08:28:13 (permalink)
      Thanks for posting this trip. I've been to that area a few times and am always confounded by the peculiar operating hours of NEPA's culinary landmarks. Only open on certain days, certain hours, hardly ever open during daylight...all sorts of quirks.
       
      In fact my one time in Girardville, I had planned to spend about  2 hours of a day trip there but was zero for 4.  Marrones and Tony's Lunch don't open until around 8:30PM (what kind of a place called Tony's Lunch does not open until 8:30 PM??), an old bar called Hibernian Tavern looked like it was closed tight (is it still in business) and I could find hide nor hair of Texas Lunch.

      Similar in Old Forge: I was there on a Saturday at lunch time and only about 1/3 of the "cuts" places were open.

      Anyway, if you guys decide to do this again, please let me (us all?) know, I'd love to be a part of it, and as I've said before, The Ooh Ooh Bird is on my Must-Do list.

      Finally, someone asked about Old Forge Pizza. I first became aware of it a few years ago via Lew Bryson's Beer Blog (one of my favorite blogs) wherein he and his pals take a day trip to NEPA. About 1/2 way down there is a description of Old Forge Pizza. Sounds like they had a good time:

      http://www.lewbryson.com/nepahotdog.htm 
      post edited by ken8038 - 2009/03/25 08:29:16
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      buffetbuster
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      Re:Weekend in Northeast PA 2009/03/25 15:38:57 (permalink)
      Saturday morning, we met JoeRogo at 7:45AM and he drove us to our breakfast destination, Tony's Restaurant in Kingston. 

      Since Joe wrote the Roadfood review, I knew we were in good hands.  On the way over, he warned us of what to expect.  Still, I was not prepared for what I was about to see. 
       
      When we walked in, the owner Jimmy Zambito greeted us with some off color remarks that went right over my head, which Joe had to tell me about later.  We walked through the front room which has the counter seats and grabbed a table near the window in the back room.  They do have a long menu of different breakfast items and another list posted on the wall.

      But seriously, how could I pass up something called a Fat Bastard omelet? 

      Truthfully, I wasn't sure what all was in the omelet when I ordered it and couldn't name all the ingredients while I was eating it.  I can tell you that it packed a serious flavor wallop.  According to the review, this omelet manages to squeeze in sausage, meatballs, onions, hot peppers, cheese and homemade sauce.  On the side is some sausage parmesan and Italian toast.  The omelet comes with excellent sliced thin and well done home fries.  Just a fantastic breakfast!  As a service to my "friends", here is a photo of me eating a "Fat Bastard". 

      Who wants to be the first one to make a joke?
       
      Johnny also got the Fat Bastard, while Joe ordered and ate the Italian Benedict.

      Soon after we started eating, stanpnepa joined us.  I believe that Stan had the Fat Bastard also, but I could be wrong.  Anyway, I have long been a fan of Stan's posts and he was just as good a guy in person.  Not too much later, another Roadfooder I have always wanted to meet, Mosca showed up on his way to work.  He pointed at the Fat Bastard and said he will have that, although he thought he was getting the Italian Benedict.
       
      I did take lots of photos inside Tony's Restaurant, but lots of them have political overtones that would set off plenty of arguing, so we aren't going to post those.  But I can tell you that if you are easily offended, don't eat here.  Don't complain if your food is taking too long, because that will probably just set Jimmy off.  Here is a photo of him cooking in the window.

      I didn't have the guts to take a front photo of him when we were walking out, since he was throwing a tirade about one of the customers asking why his food was taking so long.  I hesitate to say that, since I don't want to make it sound like this place is unfriendly.  I felt very welcome here.  Just understand going in that there are some rules and you need to follow them.  If you are looking for a nice relaxing restaurant, where the servers coddle you, go somewhere else.  If you want great food, served up with a hefty dose of attitude, then this is a place you must visit.
       
      Mosca departed before we did, promising to hook back up with us later in the day.  On the way out, we had this photo taken of the four us.

      From left to right: Joe, Johnny, Stan and myself.
       
      Tony's Restaurant
      708 Wyoming Avenue
      Kingston, PA
      570-288-6612
       
      Before we split up, Joe had one more stop he wanted us to see, which was the Majestic Lunch in Pittston.  I don't remember just how old the place was, but I think it goes back to the 1920s.  Here is Joe and Johnny standing out front

      and an interior view.

      The menu was covered with what seemed like decades old food stains,

      which always warm a Roadfooders heart.
       
      Both Johnny and I started with shakes, me a chocolate and him a vanilla. 

      Delivered in silver beakers, they were thinner than I prefer but still had really good flavor.  Joe is a regular here and ordered one chili dog and one chili burger, so that was good enough for us, too.

      Our dogs had chili, mustard and onion.  The chili is a classic Greek chili that is not hot or sweet.  I could have done without the ketchup on the burger, but the chili worked just as well here.  Both the burger and dog were on the smallish side, which was perfect considering all the eating we had planned for the day.  Majestic Lunch is just the type of hot dog shop that every town should have.
       
      Majestic Lunch
      20 S. Main Street
      Pittston, PA
      570-655-8888
       
      Joe dropped us back off at our car and we finalized plans for where and when we were going to meet for dinner.  Johnny and I headed off for our next destination.
      post edited by buffetbuster - 2009/03/25 16:00:29
      #17
      Ahi Mpls.
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      Re:Weekend in Northeast PA 2009/03/25 15:49:02 (permalink)
      Cool, looks like the lunch special PRICES are also decades old.....
      #18
      Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle
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      Re:Weekend in Northeast PA 2009/03/25 15:52:02 (permalink)
      Does anyone else besides me think that Stan and buffetbuster could be brothers?
      #19
      Nancypalooza
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      Re:Weekend in Northeast PA 2009/03/25 15:54:30 (permalink)
      Awesome--so this guy must be the PA version of Kenny Shopsin.
      #20
      Nancypalooza
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      Re:Weekend in Northeast PA 2009/03/25 15:55:08 (permalink)
      No, Bruce/Sue, I thought that too.  Very similar faces.
      #21
      buffetbuster
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      Re:Weekend in Northeast PA 2009/03/25 15:58:54 (permalink)
      Bruce Bilmes and Sue Boyle

      Does anyone else besides me think that Stan and buffetbuster could be brothers?
      Really?  Okay, which one of us is the Babyface and which one is the lumberjack?  Or am I getting my weekends mixed up?


      #22
      Nancypalooza
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      Re:Weekend in Northeast PA 2009/03/25 16:00:54 (permalink)
      LOLOL.  I thought in the other thread she was talking about Chris & Amy, but I could see it with you and Johnny too.   You would be be the babyface.  Does that make you sad?
      #23
      bethgrd
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      Re:Weekend in Northeast PA 2009/03/25 16:26:07 (permalink)
      I grew up about 1/4 mile from Tonys in Kingston. My dad used to eat there all the time!
      Love their roasted sweet peppers on sandwiches. It's cool you visited my old "hood! My mom now lives about 1 mile in the other direction in forty fort.
      Too bad you missed Victory Pig down the street, Vic Mars in Edwardsville for good hardshell crabs and steamed littlenecks, and Hottles in Wilkes Barre for great food.
      next time.
      beth g
      #24
      ken8038
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      Re:Weekend in Northeast PA 2009/03/25 18:42:29 (permalink)
      <<Awesome--so this guy must be the PA version of Kenny Shopsin. >>

      Great minds must think alike, that's exactly who I thought of when I was reading the latest installment of this trip report.

      For those of you who are not aware of who Kenny Shopsin is:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shopsins
       
      post edited by ken8038 - 2009/03/25 18:51:35
      #25
      Mosca
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      Re:Weekend in Northeast PA 2009/03/25 19:19:52 (permalink)
      Well, this should be interesting... here is Jimmy:



      He's standing right here and now, as I'm typing this! He knows that he has customers from all over the country... but he didn't know why until now. "Oh, yeah, the internet, I heard about that!" So, I showed him why. Jimmy says hello, and "Thanks Cliff!"
      #26
      Nancypalooza
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      Re:Weekend in Northeast PA 2009/03/25 19:38:31 (permalink)
      Hi there Jimmy!  ken, did you know that Kenny Shopsin has a cookbook now?
      #27
      Mosca
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      Re:Weekend in Northeast PA 2009/03/25 19:57:22 (permalink)
      bethgrd
      Too bad you missed... Vic Mars in Edwardsville for good hardshell crabs and steamed littlenecks....


      Vic Mars closed, a victim of the current economy. At least that's what Mrs Mosca told me the other day.


      #28
      joerogo
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      • Status: online
      Re:Weekend in Northeast PA 2009/03/25 20:16:43 (permalink)
      Mosca

      Well, this should be interesting... here is Jimmy:



      He's standing right here and now, as I'm typing this! He knows that he has customers from all over the country... but he didn't know why until now. "Oh, yeah, the internet, I heard about that!" So, I showed him why. Jimmy says hello, and "Thanks Cliff!"


      Mosca, That's too funny.  Did you sell hima car?
       
      I warned the guys going in that Jimmy is miserable on Saturdays.  He is the ONLY cook and he will probably serve about 200 people between 6 and 2.  BTW, that gentleman is 75 years old.
      #29
      joerogo
      Filet Mignon
      • Total Posts : 4565
      • Joined: 2006/01/17 17:33:00
      • Location: Pittston, PA
      • Status: online
      Re:Weekend in Northeast PA 2009/03/25 20:19:47 (permalink)
      Who wants to be the first one to make a joke?

      #30
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