Review: PizzaPapalis – Detroit, MI

I originally started Hold the Pickle because I wanted a space to post pictures and reviews about restaurants I have visited. I added the cooking and recipes part of the blog on a whim, because I was reading so many food blogs and had dreams of becoming the next Annie or Christy (these ladies seriously inspire me). The recipe posts have been coming full-force not only because I have been cooking so much, but also because I haven’t had the chance to visit any new-to-me restaurants…until this weekend.

So before we dive into this thing, let me give you a little info about how this is going to go. I’m going to give my take on the entire experience, start to finish. Some of the elements I comment on may never be noticed by the majority of restaurant patrons, but they are things that I take note of (normally with help from Boyfriend, restaurant professional and critic-in-crime). Additionally, because you only get one first impression with me, I will only be blogging about restaurants that I visit for the first time. This may seem harsh, but for me, there is no need to return to an establishment if my first time was less than mediocre. Finally, I will rate the restaurant overall on a 1-to-5 pickle scale. Some give stars, some give spoons… I give pickles. Obvi.

So here we go.

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PizzaPapalis – Detroit, MI

I forgot to take any real pictures. Lo siento.

The PizzaPapalis that is located in Greektown in downtown Detroit is the first of now nine locations throughout Michigan. Opened in 1986, I can’t remember exactly where I first heard about this pizzeria, but I always remembered that someone, somewhere, told me that it was a quality restaurant downtown.

Boyfriend and I had ourselves a nice little Sunday running errands in Canton and Livonia, and he had the idea to head downtown to check out Eastern Market, which is a mostly open-air farmer’s market that is operational year-round. The only problem was that, during the winter, they are only open on Saturdays. Market Fail.

Not to be deterred, we decided to at least have lunch downtown (one of the items on Boyfriend’s to-do list was have lunch somewhere we had never been before). Options abounded, and we ended up in Greektown, thinking that we would have the best chance of parking in one spot and having a few choices. We decided on PizzaPapalis because I had heard it was good and neither of us wanted to walk any further in the cold.

When we walked in, we were greeted with the oh-so-friendly and international greeting, “Are you Eric or Jenny?” A bit dumbfounded, Boyfriend (whose name is definitely not Eric) and I (whose name is definitely not Jenny) shook our heads. “Oh. Ok. You can go upstairs.” Alright. We trekked up a staircase and stood awkwardly at another host stand placed precariously close to the top of the stairs. If I had been the littlest bit tipsy (not saying that is a normal issue for me on a Sunday morning…), I might have fallen right back down those stairs. Another couple had followed us up and we all kind of stood there awkwardly near the top of the stairs, as there was nowhere to go while we waited for…something.

Eventually a busser saw us, grabbed some menus and led us towards the back of the upper dining room, only to run into the actual host, who led us back nearer to the host stand, where we were seated smack-dab in the middle of the room, while all of the other occupied tables lined the edges of the room. So there we sat, all by ourselves. More awkward.

We were greeted fairly quickly by a server to take drink orders, and Boyfriend asked his customary, “Do you have any drink specials?” question. The server responded with, “We never have any drink specials. Ever.” The response was not exactly snotty, but definitely not apologetic. After we declined to order appetizers or salads, she ran away to get us waters as we determined in which static-priced drinks we would partake.

When she returned, we had decided on a pizza (a medium, thin crust, Papalis Gourmet: spinach, black olives, chicken breast, garlic and feta), which we were told would take 25 minutes. “Would that be ok?” I quickly imagined in my mind what would happen if we said no. Would we just get up and leave? Did we really have a choice on how long the pizza would take? I suppose we could have chosen to order entrees that were not pizza…but c’mon, who goes to a place called PizzaPapalis and doesn’t get pizza? Plus, we had nowhere to be. Away she scampered to place our order.

As Boyfriend and I entertained ourselves with our iPhones and watched as tables around us were presented with family-style salads adorned with breadsticks, he commented on the lack of up-selling done by our server. “When she told us it would be 25 minutes, that’s when she should have reminded us about the salads.” My stomach growled in agreement.

Finally our beautiful pizza arrived. Although PizzaPapalis is known for their Chicago-style pies, I always insist on thin crust; it’s just my preference (Boyfriend knows not to argue, but he mentioned he would like to go back at some point to experience the deep-dish pizza). Normally, for me, pizza is pizza. There is a very small range between “sort-of-ok” and “kind-of-good”. Nothing more, nothing less. The pizza at PizzaPapalis, however, was much, much better than “kind-of-good”. The pizza was quite large, hot out of the oven, and loaded with mozzarella cheese. The crust was not too thin for Boyfriend and not too thick for me; it also had just the slightest of seasoning, giving it more taste than that of a standard, doughy crust. The toppings, while a bit on the skimpy side, looked and tasted fresh. I was impressed. I commended Boyfriend on his initiative to order a medium (leftovers!) of what was surely one of the best pizzas I have had in a while.

Once we had eaten all we could, the server brought us a box and our bill. The “gourmet” pizza was one of their pricier options, running us $20.95 (but also providing us both with lunch the following day). A couple of beers, tax, and tip brought the total to around $37.00. A little more than we would normally spend for a lunch out, but we were planning on heading home to cook dinner, so it was really the only money we spent on food that day (plus, adding alcohol will obviously always inflate an otherwise innocent lunch bill).

Overall, while the service was perhaps slightly below average, I applaud PizzaPapalis on doing pizza very well. Maybe I should have had higher expectations for a restaurant that actually has the word pizza in their name, but I was happily surprised by the food. I’m giving this place an overall rating of 3.5, deducting pickle points for the middling service, the 25-minute wait for our pizza, and the high prices. I don’t see many of these things changing, but they would all be considerations if I were to contemplate a return visit.

Happy Dining!

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