Papa G's Pizza 'n Grill in Sylvania carries an impressive Toledo-area pedigree that the family restaurant honors on its menu and in the warm, friendly faces that make eating there feel special.
Papa G's traces its past to J & G Pizza Palace just up the street in the downtown area, which was founded decades ago by Jim Karahalios. He retired from operating the popular J & G and then went back into business at the Papa G's location as Pappoulis Pizza and Grill, before selling the business to Greg and JoAnn Cook.
Papa G's is located in a strip shopping center on Main near Brint Road and the interior features photos and decor that reflect its emphasis on Greek and Italian food, with mini-columns down the middle that separate the two halves of the main dining area.
The menu is relatively stripped down, with an emphasis on pizza, grinder sandwiches, lasagna, spinach pie, salads, and appetizers. Six pizza specials dominate the offerings, but we went with a relatively simple large pepperoni and mushroom pie ($12.70).
Here's the thing you have to get used to right away at Papa G's -- the use of cinnamon and nutmeg in the sauces, which is fairly common in Greek food. So, yes, the pizza has a sweeter, spicier taste than you would expect, and if you're not so inclined then it's not going to meet your standards because it is definitely different. We liked it, and along with the crispy thin crust and thick layer of cheese, it makes for a nice change of pace.
Papa G's spinach pie ($6.99/$8.99) comes with a bed of rice. The spinach pie is peppery and isn't heavy on the feta cheese but it features flaky, light phyllo dough. Papa G's serves it in two neat squares rather than piling it high in the fashion of other Mediterranean restaurants.
The lasagna ($7.95) is a stack of noodles with sauteed beef, marinara sauce, and melted cheese and it comes in a reasonably sized portion. The garlic bread on the side was dry, heavy, and not very garlicky, which was disappointing.
Papa G's beef and lamb gyro ($5.95) earns points for being served on strong, thick pita bread rather than the pocket variety that tends to fall apart under the weight of the meat, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and sauce. But Papa G's version also features hints of nutmeg/cinnamon flavoring and once again this is going to be a "in the tastebuds of the beholder" type of dish.
The lemon chicken soup ($3.75/$4.75) was excellent and perfect on a winter night. It was flavored with just a hint of lemon and plenty of chicken pieces to balance the broth. The hummus appetizer ($3.95) was served with warm pita bread, green peppers, olives, jalapeno peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, and onion -- and it's a great start to the meal.
We also sampled the saganaki ($6.95), a traditional Greek dish that is served up flaming -- literally -- thanks to a healthy dose of brandy and fire. Think Mediterranean brie, with a more candied flavoring and delivered with a dramatic flourish that includes the server shouting "Opa!" which is good fun.
The homemade desserts were superb. My dinner partner fell in love with the loukoumathes ($2), which are essentially doughnuts -- fried dough, coated in cinnamon and honey. They're sticky, airy, and perfect with coffee. I preferred the apple cake ($2), which was light, moist, and decorated with whipped cream.
Papa G's is a classic example of a restaurant with a well-defined identity -- family dining that includes limited wine and beer offerings, a friendly atmosphere, and a limited but strong menu of homemade dishes that feature an ethnic bent. It is a place that stands on a long tradition of comfortable low-key dining that features quality over showmanship.
Contact Bill of Fare at email@example.com.
Address: 5127 S. Main St., Sylvania
Menu: Greek and Italian
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday; 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday; 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Reservations are accepted.
Wheelchair access: Yes
Average Price: $$
Credit Cards: AE, Dis., MC, V