BATAVIA – New location but the same great pizza and other favorites can be found at Pal Joey's, which migrated in May from downtown Batavia to a more well-traveled corridor in town, finding fresh digs off Randall Road and Main Street.
We walked into the former Golden Corral building curious to see the transformation. The eye-catching focal point near the entry is an attractive bar with a base of stacked stone flanked by stools and high-tops. Adding warmth is the rough-sawn wooden bar top that extends in a U-shape to another more expansive seating area behind the see-through shelving design. Each side of the bar is topped with a trio of televisions tuned to sports and other programming.
The hostess guided us to an alcove table. There was a good crowd on a weeknight, and the acoustics allowed easy conversation, helped by ample room between tables. Nearby, a private party was just wrapping up amid balloons and gifts in a large private dining space. At the other end of the restaurant, I spied two additional private rooms, one small and one medium, satisfying the three bears of event planners.
While we studied the menu and the night's specials, we opened with a good glass of wine and a lightly coconut-laced summer ale from Two Brothers called Pahoehoe that found favor with my dining companion. The bar has eight brews on tap.
Tempted by everything from a grilled crab cake salad to baby back ribs, spaghetti carbonara and a Reuben, I chose the chicken Marsala entree, which includes soup or salad.
Having heard raves about the baked French onion soup at Pal Joey's, I opted for the small up-charge to try a bowl. Our attentive server offered two spoons, so we both got to enjoy the well-flavored broth, blissfully not over-salted, with a decadent, melting crown of Swiss, mozzarella and Parmesan. I'm already looking forward to a bowl all my own next time.
My chicken Marsala featured succulent chicken breast accompanied by a generous quantity of wine sauce brimming with fresh mushrooms. The dish is meant to be accompanied by spaghetti Alfredo, but because of gluten sensitivity, I substituted the golden mashed potatoes. They were superb and paired beautifully with the sauce.
Pal Joey's also offers gluten-free pizza and pasta.
My companion never passes up a chance to try a new pizza pie and was thrilled to see a super thin crust option on the menu in addition to what's labeled the specialty pan pizza.
He picked a new topping combination for himself: Italian sausage, bacon, mushroom, spinach and grilled onions. The results were a stunning balance of everything we both love about pizza atop a thin, crispy crust. It's one of the best pies we've encountered on our eternal search for the perfect pizza.
We ran into supporters of Water Street Studios in Batavia, and they noted the restaurant's expansive walls would be ideal to display the works of artists to enhance the Italian travel and landscape images already displayed.
To cap our evening, we shared a lovely tiramisu dessert that was light and creamy.
Our server was excellent, ever at the ready but not intrusive during our relaxed meal.
When asked, she said a luncheon buffet is available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, featuring all-you-can-eat chopped and Caesar salads, soup of the day and a variety of pizzas.
In addition to catering, Pal Joey's offers carryout service from a counter near the back of the restaurant, accessed by walking straight past the bar. The restaurant is set back from the southwest corner of the intersection and is accessible off Main Street.
For more information about Pal Joey's, including dates with live entertainment, visit paljoeys.com or call 630-593-6600.
The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at the Kane County Chronicle. The diner’s identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. The Mystery Diner visits a different restaurant and then reports on the experience. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a review.
WHERE: 2030 Main St., Batavia
HOURS: Opening at 11 a.m. Monday through Friday and at noon Saturday and Sunday, closing at about 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 9 p.m. Sunday
INFO: paljoeys.com, 630-593-6600