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Freshness is Key for PaPa J’s in The Strip

Image via Michael Troiani, president of the Troiani Group

PaPa J’s expects to open in early May on the corner of Smallman at 21st Street

“The trick to Italian cooking is to seek out the best, high quality and raw ingredients of the region and prepare them with respect. To not hide them or cover them up,” -Michael Troiani, president of the Troiani Group.

The Troiani’s of the soon-to-be PaPa J’s in The Strip, have a culinary vision with a few tricks up their sleeve, exploding with fresh Italian tastes and handmade cuisine. The casual, fine dining establishment will appeal to all of the human senses when immersing oneself in deep-rooted Italian traditions when it comes to cooking and dining out.

The Italian fare and fun will be located on the corner of Smallman at 21st Street, 2016 Smallman Street, Pittsburgh PA 15222, providing full-service dining with 192 seats in the facility that includes a dining room, bar service and counter service as well as an open kitchen concept. The expected soft opening date is May 12, 2022, by honoring the birthday of Jacki Troiani, the matriarch of the Troiani family, and eager customers can walk through its open doors starting at the beginning of May.


“Anytime it’s a family versus a corporation, the goal of the family is to create loyalty, rather than simply creating a quarterly profit,” says Troiani. “We look forward to serving people in the Strip District where we will feature four pillars of food service.”

PaPa J’s in The Strip will offer Roman-style pizza as the first palatable pillar, a baker’s pizza with high-quality dough that is left to mature for three days before handling. The second includes rotisserie, in which the restaurant will have split roast pork as porchetta, crispy, tender chicken, and fresh-cut-and-roasted vegetables. Pasta, as its third pillar, will offer a special, eye-catching performance as it’s made in-house, cranking out fresh pasta at 90 lbs. an hour from their specialty Italian equipment. The fourth pillar focuses on the flavor-explosion of the small-batch making of gelato, with a machine shipped from Italy, that pasteurizes and freezes in the restaurant.

Troiani expands on the gelato-making process: “It’s different from regular ice cream in that it is a denser solid, not whipped with air like American ice cream and instead of being a 24% fat ice cream, it’s 8-10% fat. Based on the cooking process and the temperature of the pasteurization process, all the flavors just explode. Plus, it’ll taste even better because gelato is held at a warmer temperature.”

Troiani explains the science of proper gelato care using separate ingredients of milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla bean and other ingredients. Having gelato served within days of production will be a unique add-on to their fresh and authentic Italian approach. The family has sought out equipment to hold the product at the correct temperature, which is a bit warmer than ice cream. Flavors on tastebuds expand more when products, like cheese and wines also, are a bit warmer than cooler.

PaPa J’s will be serving gelato in the cup or cone from dipping cases offering 32 in-store made varieties and offer pints and quarts to take home.

“We will also be making a ridiculously good affogato, which is freshly scooped of gelato and a shot of espresso, and affogato corretto from the bar, which is fresh scooped gelato paired with spirits,” says Troiani.

The copper-topped Gelato-centric bar will feature 20 Draft Beers, 8 Draft Wines and Prosecco Delights such as Bellini Floats and Aperol Spritz with Orange sorbet. All of which will shake the cocktail game up at the restaurant.

The family-owned restaurant will be locally-sourcing as much as possible by partnering with Frankfurt Farms for their special grains to make their own flour mix, sourcing meat from B&P Quality Meats in Hunker, PA and the Kern Family at CA Curtze and Sausage from Ernie Ricci’s in McKees Rocks.

Plus, Troiani adds that partnering with the food purveyors in The Strip will integrate a special connection with the local food community, especially by featuring the best of Penn Mac, Consumer Produce, Stamoolis Brothers and Mon Aimee Chocolate, all of which are only blocks away.

Troiani notes, “The trick to Italian cooking is to seek out the best, high quality and raw ingredients and to be respectful to them. To not hide them or cover them up.”

 When customers walk through the restaurant, they will be greeted by glass door coolers in the customer area to witness the bulk batches of pizza dough bubbling up and maturing in the restaurant’s mission of serving fresh food.

“Customers will be able to witness the kitchen and see the pasta extruding from the pasta machine into the boiling water, right onto the saucepan and then onto the plate. It’s an authentic experience to see it going from a grain to a noodle, a cooked noodle, then plate, and then onto the table,” Troiani concludes: “The concept of freshness is key.”

Colin Parrish

Avid taco lover, writer, and new restaurant taste tester, Colin Parrish lets the curiosity get the best of him as he dives into his discovery of all things Pittsburgh-related! Places, people, and locally-made products, he loves to spark conversations to uncover what’s new and exciting around tahn.

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