No, really. There isn’t. This weekend brought about one of our favorite things to do- eat at Pelleterri Joe’s. This truly is a little gem of Utica tucked away on Pelleterri Ave, and there’s no place like it! Here it is! We love eating here because the atmosphere is totally casual and the dishes served are simple, homemade and something Gary’s grandmother would serve up on a Saturday afternoon. A little eatery that puts a smile on our face from the minute we get there until well after we leave.
So what makes Joe’s so unique? Where do we begin…..
For starters, it’s only open twice a week- Tuesdays and Saturdays. Random, right? And it’s the only place in town that we know of where we can get a pork braciole (pronounced bra-zhall), but only on Tuesdays (recipe for pork braciole coming soon!!). It’s not always easy to get there, so when we do, it’s a real treat! And they’re only open for lunch. Sigh…. But that’s another thing that makes Joe’s so special. Breaking away for lunch, and it’s always jammed packed. Loud, boisterous and you’re likely to be shoulder to shoulder with the person next to you. We’re cool with that. It’s plain fun.
Hmmmm….what else??… If you’ve never been before, it’s wise to go with someone who has because you won’t know what to do. There’s a system, that to a newbie seems chaotic, is perfectly ordered by the wait staff. (Did we mention it’s family owned?) When you walk in to the full restaurant, you look around and expect someone to say something to you, and there may be a table or two that’s empty. You think to yourself, “Do I seat myself?, what do I do?” Oh, don’t you dare! The folks at Joe’s know exactly who came in and in what order- and they do take reservations, so don’t mess with that! If they don’t acknowledge you, they will…. Eventually. They’re really busy. There isn’t a real menu, just an old one on the wall if you can see it, with tape covering some menu items and prices that have changed. We’ve never looked at the menu- we just order. That’s because Gary’s been going for decades and learned from his father what you need to get. We know what to do because the menu hasn’t changed much. Honestly, it’s probably nearly impossible to end up at Joes because you stumbled up on it. It’s all word of mouth. You have to know it’s there and, as a result, you know what to do.
There’s going to be a wait so start off by bellying up to the bar and grabbing a cold bucket (pints at Joe’s are called buckets) of Utica Club beer or a (water) glass of Carlo Rossi Paisano wine. And if you’re feeling like a little Sangria, they’ll add orange soda to your Paisano and voila, you’ve got Sangria. It sounds awful, but it’s actually pretty good lol! Buckets are only $1.50 and a glass of wine (water glass) is $2. If you’re feeling lucky, you can play the lottery. Can’t speak much on that because we never play. But if that’s your thing…. Within a short (or long, we really don’t care) amount of time, a member of the wait staff will take your order at the bar and when a table is free, you’ll be told. Your (small) table will be set with plates, forks and knives, a small bowl of Pecorino Romano cheese, and a loaf of hard crusted Italian bread still in the bag from the local bakery. Take your drinks with you. This is what we start with:
Don’t even think about asking for butter for your bread. You’ll get yelled at. “Butter?! What do you want butter for when you got cheese? We don’t serve butter here.” Point taken.
We like to order a dish of mixed hot and sweet fried peppers, antipasto for two, braciole ( on Tuesday) or meatballs and (occasionally) sausage (Saturday), a dish of mushroom stew over ziti and a dish of olio (garilc and mushrooms sauteed in olive oil) over spaghetti. By the way, their tomatoes are always fresh and wonderful. The longstanding rumor is they have a greenhouse environment on the second floor of the building providing delicious tomatoes year round. Who knows?
Joe’s is one of those places that everyone goes to and everyone feels welcome. There are lawyers chatting with plumbers, folks in suits sharing a laugh with guys on a lunch break from a construction site; young people enjoying stories about lunches at Joe’s from years ago told by a senior citizen. It’s just one of those places. And if you go, you might want to call ahead to see if they are open and how long they are open on either day. You can pretty much guarantee that Joe’s will be rocking and rolling for several hours on Tuesday and Saturday; opening time on those days is typically 10am…….unless the family decides to go on vacation or if there is a funeral to attend; the sign will be posted in the window letting you know which is the case. Closing time? Your guess is as good as anyone’s. If you’re in the door and the place is declared “open”….you’re welcome to stay until the cows come home; show up after they decide it’s time to cut off any newcomers, then your out of luck. Unless, of course, you are a recognizable regular and they’ll cut you some slack.
And you’re not going to believe that Joe’s doesn’t take credit cards! Ask them if they do and they’ll ask you how much you enjoy doing dishes….. With a straight face.
We could go on and on about how much we love to go to Joe’s with our friends and Jenn’s mom. It may be a little rough around the edges, but the food is simple and great, the family who runs the place is humorous, friendly and hospitable to all and it’s just an absolute pleasure to be a part of the crowd there.
There you have it…a little slice of Utica.