Friday, November 11, 2011
Papa's Tomato Pies
PAPA'S TOMATO PIE RESTAURANT
804 Chambers Street, The Burg
Trentonian, The (Trenton, NJ) - Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Papa's Tomato Pie Restaurant is celebrating 96 years in
business! We have been serving the Trenton area since 1912.
And we are the second oldest pizza restaurant in the United
The founder of Papa's was the owners grandfather, Joe Papa, from
Naples, Italy, which is the birth place of tomato pies as
we know it today. He opened one of the first pizzarias in
Trenton, located on South Clinton Avenue. As years passed,
he moved to Butler Street, with two locations. One at 109
Butler. The second was built right across the street,
which is now known as Neapolitan Hall. Then moving to
Chambers and Roebling streets in 1945, where it still
operates today as a family run business of four
generations of pie makers.
Starting with the owners grandfather, Joe Papa. He was 17
when he opened his first restaurant, making dough by hand
long before machines, and cooking in an oven using coal.
He also peeled and cooked tomatoes for the pizza sauce,
and used olive oil and resh-cut mozzarella while my grandmother,
Adalene, made the meatballs, the macaroni sauce, and helped
him prepare in the kitchen. Joe Papa was one of the first
businessmen in Trenton, chairman of the Feast of Lights for
many years, and president of Neapolitan Hall. Always in a suit
and tie, he taught many a pie maker who went off to own
businesses of their own, like Tony Gervasio of Gervasio's
Restaurant and Chick and Jimmy DeLorenzo from DeLorenzo's
and many others. Both of the owners grandfathers' sisters married
successful pie makers as Dominik Picca of Picca's on Whittaker
Avenue and Tony of Long Branch, which is still in operation.
My father, Dominik "Abbie" Azzaro, started working for the owners
grandfather in 1945. He met the owners mother, Teresa "Tessie" Papa,
and shortly after married. He worked for the owners grandfather until
he passed away in 1965. Then, he and the owners mother took over the
business. She helped him by taking care of all the paperwork.
He not only continued with the family recipes, but he stayed
open until 3 a.m., serving breakfast to local Chambersburg and
Villa Park patrons. At that time, there were many bars in the
area that came to Papa's when they closed. To mention a few,
Mickey's, Freddie's, Gus Hines, Four Ovals, De Georges Elderado,
Bartolini's, Botel Inn, Count Felix, The Little Spot,
Dart Tavern, Liberty Tavern, and many others.
Another fond memory was being open in the late afternoon
when the teenagers came in and danced in the aisles. We
had a big teen clientele. They came in after the football
games between Trenton High and Trenton Catholic. Then there
was the famous Sports Night at Trenton High. The Red Team used
Papa's as their home base. Most of the girls were from
Chambersburg . Those same teenagers are now in their 60s,
and a group of them return the last Wednesday of every month,
still eating the same tomato pies, just not dancing in the aisle.
Some of our well-known patrons were Mary Roebling, Anthony
Carabelli, Bobby Prunetti, Kathy Di costanza, Jimmy Durante,
Frank Stallone, Louis Prima, Sam Butera, and many more stars