Pat Propato truly understands that making quality food starts with quality ingredients, such as the imported tomatoes he uses in his kitchen at Giuseppe’s Pizza and Family Restaurant in Willow Grove.
While running his bustling business at the corner of Fitzwatertown and York roads, he easily exudes the confidence of a man who knows his menu offerings will be delicious.
Only a man this self-assured would, years ago, quit working for his future in-laws at their family-owned Giuseppe’s to open his own pizza shop … two weeks before his wedding.
“It went over better than I expected,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.
He married the girl, struck out on his own, and opened Little Pat’s in Horsham. Almost five years ago, his in-laws approached him to buy the Willow Grove location of Giuseppe’s—ending its stint as a franchise and bringing it back into the family with the New Hope, Warminster and Richboro locations. (The Ambler location is still a franchise, owned by family friends.)
We often get take-out pizza from Giuseppe's, but frequently grab a menu and settle ourselves at a table in one of the two simply decorated dining rooms. Propato, who seems perpetually present, is happy to power up one of the flat-screen televisions if a game is on.
The atmosphere is distinctly casual and child-friendly, and while the menu has the obligatory hoagies, steak sandwiches and pizza, dinner entrees come with soup or salad, and many are worthy of a fancier eatery.
Minestrone soup, full of large chunky vegetables, was tender and flavorful in a thin tomato broth. The chicken and rice soup had shredded chicken, rice, carrots and celery in a broth that certainly tasted homemade, albeit a little greasy.
Side salads were large, with romaine lettuce, tomatoes, onions and a mountain of croutons. The dressing came in a cup on the side, and though it was probably just a bottled dressing available from most restaurant suppliers, I adored the Italian dressing’s creamy tang.
The meat of the chicken wings was a tad dry, but they were indeed spicy and saucy, and accompanied by thick crunchy stalks of celery (10 for $5.95). A generous side portion of blue cheese dressing pleasantly contained large chunks of the namesake.
Angel hair pasta was perfectly al dente and swimming in tomato sauce, just the way I like it ($9.95). The tomato sauce was light and fresh, with just a touch of sweetness, garlic and basil, brightened by freshly chopped parsley. Like the simple Italian dressing on the salad, it is this sauce that transforms a modest dish into a perfectly slurpable plate of comfort food.
A friend ordered the chicken parmesan sandwich, which arrived saucy, cheesy, and on a good long roll with a side of pickles ($5.95).
He said he would have liked a little more chicken, but devoured the whole thing before I could steal a bite, so it must have been good.
The eggplant parmesan ($12.95) was breaded and chewy, covered in tomato sauce and generous amounts of melted, browned mozzarella cheese. The veal with peppers ($13.95) illustrated the kitchen’s cooking skills— the thin scallops of veal remained very tender, and were topped with meltingly soft green peppers and a crisp white wine sauce.
The pizza was great, too ($10.25 for a medium pie). Burnt bubbles spontaneously lined the thin, crispy crust, and here, simplicity reigned. The sauce was subtly spiced and reminiscent of a fresh, ripe, bright red tomato. A thin layer of mozzarella completed the pie, which was tasty plain or with one of the various classic toppings.
Those passionate about pizza usually have a favorite shop to which they stay fanatically loyal. Mack and Manco’s down the shore, for example, engenders such fervor.
Having had it on a recent shoobie Saturday, I can honestly say I prefer the pizza from Giuseppe’s right here in our own backyard, with sweet, fresh sauce spread with a ladle, rather than herby, sharp sauce squirted from a tube.
After dinner, Propato seemed genuinely happy when I told him the food was great, as always. It was the “as always” that he liked best, as he strives not only for happy customers, but consistently happy customers.
Though he was relaxed in his Ivy cap, when he saw I was taking notes, he brought out a small portion of the gnocchi special ($14.95). It combined pillowy, plump potato dumplings with strips of chicken, sundried tomatoes and a tomato cream sauce. Rich and delicious, creamy and comforting, this dish was a hit with everyone at the table.
And, like almost all of the food that comes out of the kitchen at Giuseppe’s Willow Grove, Propato was confident we would love it.
Giuseppe’s Pizza and Family Restaurant earns 4 out of 5 Whisks for the best pizza in town and high quality food at affordable prices.
Second Helping of Information
Location – 1200 N. York Road, Willow Grove
Hours – Monday through Thursday: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday: noon to 10 p.m.
Phone – 215-659-4580
Website – giuseppespizzawillowgrove.com
Reservations – Not available
On the Kids Menu – High chairs available, no changing table in the bathroom