Pourhouse American Grille opens with new management; Niko’s at Night debuting; and more

PourHouse American Grille reopens under new management

The PourHouse American Grille has reopened under its new ownership. The restaurant, located along Pricetown Road, closed for a brief period beginning at the end of September as the business transitioned to new management. A new menu is also being served, according to the restaurant’s official Facebook page.

Niko’s at Night to debut this Friday

Niko’s at Night, the new BYOB dinner service from Red Plate Diner in Wernersville, is set to debut on Friday, October 30. According to the diner’s website, Niko’s at Night will be available only on Friday and Saturday nights from fall through spring and will have a completely different menu from the diner. Niko’s at Night is now taking reservations.

Westy closing for remodeling

Hamburg’s The Westy Bar & Grill will be closing for repairs and remodeling beginning October 31, according to a post on the restaurant’s Facebook page. The restaurant is scheduled to be closed for a little more than a week, reopening with regular hours on November 9.

Iron Chef Hamburg set for this Sunday

The Hamburg Iron Chef takes place this Sunday, November 1, at the Hamburg High School. Now in its fifth year, the event features a vendor area, live auction, cooking demonstrations, People’s Choice tasting, and the namesake Iron Chef competition. This year’s competitors are defending champion Chef Tim Twiford (Crowne Plaza), Chef Michael Martino (Melanie’s Medleys and Don’s Food Products) and Pit Master Jeff Stumpf (“The Pink Pig” It’s Just BBQ). Proceeds from the event benefit the Hamburg Area Education Foundation.

Food News

Corropolese Bakery & Deli

corropolese-bakery-and-deli

October is National Pizza Month, and Berks County Eats is celebrating by visiting some of our area’s best pizzerias all month long.

I would be willing to bet that most Berks Countians have never heard of tomato pie. Far fewer are likely to have tried it.

Tomato pie is most popular in Philadelphia and the western suburbs where Corropolese Bakery & Deli has spent more than 90 years perfecting this unique dish.

For Berks Countians, good tomato pie is closer than you may realize. Corropolese operates a location in the Douglassville Shopping Center, just off Routes 422 and 662.

The Douglassville location offers everything that the other three locations (Norristown, Lansdale and Limerick) offer: carved-to-order deli meats, fresh-baked pastries and cupcakes and loaves of specialty breads.

corropolese-interior

But the big draw is their famed tomato pie, which has earned “Best of Montgomery County” accolades multiple times.

If we mapped it out on a family tree, tomato pie would be pizza’s distant cousin, the one that only shows up once or twice a year at family gatherings.

The similiarities are obvious. Tomato pie and pizza are both layered dishes that start with a crust, tomato sauce and cheese. But in a lot of ways, Corropolese’s tomato pie is the antithesis of pizza.

One key difference is how you eat it. Pizza is best when it’s fresh out of the oven. The hotter, the better. With a tomato pie, there’s nothing wrong with eating it warm, but it’s a dish best served cold.

corropolese-tomato-pie-sheets

When we went to the counter to place our order, there was a quarter-sheet already boxed and waiting for pick-up. (Pies are served in two sizes: full sheets with 32 slices and quarter-sheets with eight). No heat lamp. No warm-up in the oven. We just took our box, headed out the door and ate it as it was.

Another similarity is the crust. The crust on the pie is thick, like a Sicilian pizza but with a softer texture. One of the comments I read on a review site described it as “spongey.” I would describe more like the consistency of a soft pretzel — crisp on the outside and a little doughy on the inside.

Corropolese offers several variations of the tomato pie, some that more closely resemble a pizza than others, but the original “red” has just two toppings: tomato sauce and Romano cheese.

corropolese-tomato-pie

On a traditional pizza, tomato sauce is more of an after thought, a thin layer that provides a little color and some flavor. On the tomato pie, the sauce is everything. It’s layered on thick, much thicker than a pizza, with a flavor that more closely resembles spaghetti sauce.

I can’t explain the physics behind it, but somehow the sauce manages to maintain a semi-solid form, never running off the crust even after several bites.

The last ingredient in Corropolese’s tomato pie is Parmesan cheese. There’s no shredded cheese, no fresh mozzarella, just a liberal sprinkling of grated Parmesan. It provides just a hint of flavor, and that’s all it needs to do. This is, after all, a tomato pie. And that’s the most important part.

corropolese-interior-2

Corropolese is not a place to go if you’re looking for a sit-down meal. There are no seats inside so after we paid our $8.00 at the counter (the pie was only $4.50, but we had two sodas as well), we took the pie to the car to enjoy.

I suppose on a nicer day, you could set up a picnic blanket on the grassy median in front of the shopping center, but your best bet is to take your tomato pie home with you.

What you take home will be something that you won’t find anywhere else in Berks County. Tomato pie may never grow to become as popular as pizza, but everyone should try it at least once.

And Corropolese does it better than anyone.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: *Takeout Only
Price: Very Reasonable

Corropolese Bakery & Deli
180 Old Swede Rd
Douglassville, PA 19518

Corropolese Bakery & Deli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lunch & Dinner Reviews

Willoughby’s transforming into steakhouse; new cafe opens in Roby; more food news

Willoughby’s rebranding as upscale steakhouse

willoughby-s-4

Willoughby’s will have a whole new look and feel when it reopens in mid-November. According to an article in the October 20 Reading Eagle, Willoughby’s on Park is transforming into an upscale steakhouse. The restaurant had planned for renovations to the bar area, according to the article, but decided instead on a complete makeover. The restaurant has been closed since Labor Day weekend.

Lil Chatter Box Cafe opens in Robesonia

The Lil Chatter Box Cafe is now open in Robesonia. The cafe, located inside the Robesonia Farmers Marketplace, had its first day on Sunday. Lil Chatter Box is open daily for breakfast and lunch with extended afternoon hours Thursday through Saturday.

Roby House closed for renovations

The Roby House is currently closed for renovations. The Robesonia restaurant announced on its Facebook page that it will be reopening on October 23 at noon. No other details on the project were available.

Fork & Ale opening delayed

The opening of Douglassville’s Fork & Ale has been delayed, according to the restaurant’s Facebook page. The last update from the restaurant had listed October as the target opening date. No new date has been set, but the restaurant says it expects to open before the New Year.

Junior League of Reading hosting Brews & BBQ event

The Junior League of Reading is hosting a Fall Fest Brews & BBQ event this Saturday night at St. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church. The benefit event features local barbecue and beer as well as live music. Tickets are available for $75 and can be purchased on the Junior League’s website.

Winners announced from VF Outlet Fall Food Truck Festival

Last Saturday was the annual Fall Food Truck Festival at the VF Outlet. In addition to the more than a dozen food trucks in attendance, the day featured a chili cook-off. Here are all of the winners from both the chili cook-off and the food truck competition

  • Best Food Truck: MAD Sandwiches
  • Most Unique Food Truck Item: WOW Wagon
  • Spiciest Chili: Templin’s Soggie Bottom Grill
  • Most Unique Chili: WOW Wagon
  • People’s Choice Chili: Michael Stump
Food News

The Original Mama’s Pizza – Sinking Spring

mama-s-pizza-order-counter

There are a lot of Mama’s making pizzas around Berks County. There’s Mama’s Pizza and Grill, which operates three locations (Kenhorst, Temple and Rockland St.); Mamma’s Delight in Kutztown; Mama Maria’s in Boyertown; and the former Mamma B’s that recently closed along Pricetown Rd.

Then there is The Original Mama’s Pizza, which operates locations in Sinking Spring and Wyomissing. We wanted to visit the “original” Original Mama’s so we took the short drive down Rte. 724 to the Spring Towne Center.

Local pride is on full display as soon as you walk inside. In addition to the framed photos from the Philadelphia Phillies glory years, the wall bears certificates from the National Night Out and Spring Township’s Parks and Rec. The most impressive piece is the large “thank you” note in the corner, written on oversized paper in a young child’s handwriting.

mama-s-pizza-interior

We placed our order at the counter and took a seat by the front window. I already knew Mama’s had a loyal following — it’s what helped earn them a Reading Eagle Reader’s Choice Award in 2014 — and it was clearly on display with the endless stream of customers coming through while we waited for our pizza to arrive. It made me even more excited for the slices that were on their way.

I never get just a single slice of pizza anymore. There is nothing less appetizing than dried-out pies sitting behind glass waiting to be thrown into the oven to reheat.

Yet I found myself looking through three shelves of slices at Mama’s, searching for one to call dinner.

One that looked (and sounded) more appetizing than the rest was the Quatro Gusti. Literally translated “four flavors,” it was built with sausage, ricotta and grilled onions, but I would hesitate to call them toppings.

mama-s-pizza-quatro-gusti-stuffed-pizza

Sure there were some onions and sausage pieces scattered on top, but most of the goodness was underneath the filmy layer of cheese. That’s where the ricotta was packed in, as well as hearty chunks of sausage and sweet onion slivers.

While the top layer looked tired, it was fresh as could be underneath with ingredients that blended perfectly together.

mama-s-pizza-stuffed-pizza-1

Julie went with another stuffed pizza that was a daily special. It was described as spicy chicken balsamic with bacon, but the description was a little deceiving.

mama-s-pizza-stuffed-pizza-2

We never tasted any balsamic, nor was it very spicy. There was plenty of chicken and more than enough bacon. That’s not to say it wasn’t good. It was. It was also very filling to the point where Julie couldn’t finish the braided crust.

Normally one slice of any pizza, regardless of how big, is not enough to fill me. That’s why I insisted on also getting a pair of pepperoni sticks.

mama-s-pizza-pepperoni-sticks

In the end, we probably didn’t need them, but they were still very good. They looked like extra long breadsticks when they were sitting in the case, but were broken in half before being served with a side of marinara dipping sauce (a side of sauce was also served with both of our slices of pizza, but neither of those needed it).

The pepperoni sticks tasted as good as they looked, with a nice amount of garlic, Parmesan and herbs to go with the cheesy, meaty filling.

Along with our two bottles of iced tea, our bill came to just under $20.00. At first, this sounds like a lot, but not when you consider that neither one of us had any room left when we were finished. (At lunchtime you can get a real bargain with a stuffed slice and fountain soda for $5.25).

The name “The Original Mama’s Pizza” doesn’t mean that it was the first to use the name. It’s just a way to distinguish it from the rest.

But what really sets The Original Mama’s Pizza apart from the other Mama’s in Berks County is the pizza. That’s what keeps everyone coming back.

BCE Rating
Food: Good
Service: Good
Ambiance: Fair
Price: Very Reasonable

The Original Mama’s Pizza
2661 Shillington Rd
Sinking Spring, PA 19608

Mama's Pizza and Grill Sinking Spring Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lunch & Dinner Pizzerias Reviews

Haute Chocolate changing owners; C&M Subs opens in Roby; and more food news

Haute Chocolate in transition amid scandal

West Reading’s Haute Chocolate Cafe is undergoing a change of ownership. The Reading Eagle reported earlier this week that current owner John M. Zuwiala is being charged with aggravated indecent assault, open lewdness, indecent exposure and indecent assault related to an incident with an employee in March. Following the report, the cafe’s Facebook page was updated with a post announcing it is already under new management and undergoing an ownership change, with pastry chef Johanna Zabala transitioning into an ownership role in the coming months.

C&M Subs opens in Robesonia

C&M Subs has opened up shop in Robesonia. The sandwich place is located in the former Muddy’s Smokehouse BBQ location on Penn Ave. Muddy’s left the location in June after failing to come to terms on a new lease.

Van’s Cafe close to reopening

West Reading’s Van’s Cafe is close to reopening. According to a post on the restaurant’s Facebook page, Van’s Cafe should be up and running in its new location by Halloween. The pho restaurant has been closed since June 22 when it began a move to a new location one block west. The cafe was originally scheduled to reopen in early August, but renovations took longer than expected.

Willoughby’s rebranding with renovation

Willoughby’s Bar & Grill will be known as Willoughby’s on Park when it reopens this fall. The restaurant’s website now redirects to WilloughbysonPark.com. The landing page simply says “Coming Soon! Opening Fall 2015. Check back for some new and exciting changes.” Renovations began to the building following Labor Day and the restaurant has been closed since.

 

Food News

P&J Pizza

p-and-j-pizza

October is National Pizza Month, and Berks County Eats is celebrating by visiting some of our area’s best pizzerias all month long.

Most weeks on Berks County Eats, I take you — my readers — with me as a visit a new place and try something different.

Discovering new places and foods is one of my favorite parts about doing this blog.

But I would be doing a disservice to everyone if I didn’t also throw in some old favorites, places that I have enjoyed since childhood. Places that I frequented before the blog began. Places like P&J’s Pizza.

Opening on High St. in Womelsdorf in 1989, Pete and John (the P and J in P&J’s) have been serving western Berks County for more than 25 years.

Growing up in nearby Robesonia in the 90s, I can’t remember a time without P&J’s. They were always there in the store, and their pizza was at every party and every post-game meal throughout my childhood.

p-and-j-interior

Through the years, the restaurant has remained much the same. The seven booths are surrounded by wood paneled walls. If not for the brand new TV in the corner, you would never know it wasn’t still 1989.

I have had more meals than I can count at P&J’s, trying much of the menu. Their subs are incredible, served in rolls that are more like hollowed-out loaves of Italian bread. The strombolis are also very good.

But what I love more than anything else on the menu is the Sicilian pizza.

p-and-j-sicilian-pizza

Sicilian pizza, for those who have never tried it, is a little bit different from your traditional pie. The most obvious difference is that it’s square. Sicilians fit much more snugly into the carry-out boxes.

It’s also a thicker crust, more like a Chicago-style pizza that rises in the oven instead of remaining flat.

P&J’s does Sicilians as well as anyone. It’s baked until the edges are crispy and the cheese is perfectly melted. The sauce is sweet and the pepperoni is just a little spicier than other restaurants.

p-and-j-sicilian-pizza-2

The slices are hearty, but I still managed to put down three of them before my stomach threw up the white flag.

In addition, Sicilian pies are a great value if you have a lot of mouths to feed. The large pie, which measures 16-inches square, is sliced in 12 pieces for $12.50 (toppings are $2.25 each so ours was $15.00).

Julie and I shared our pie with my parents, and between the four of us we still had three slices left at the end of the meal. If you do the math, it comes to about $3 per meal, a value no matter how you look at it.

Every small town has a place like P&J’s — a little pizza shop that locals come back to over and over again.

For me, as much as I love new and different, I will always keep going back to P&J’s as long as they keep putting out the same great pizzas I remember from my childhood.

BCE Rating
Food: Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Fair
Price: Very Reasonable

P&J Pizza
133 W. High St
Womelsdorf, PA 19567

P & J Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lunch & Dinner Pizzerias Reviews

Pourhouse American Grille sold; Liederkranz Oktoberfest named best in country; more

Pourhouse American Grille closed; to reopen with new owners

The Pourhouse American Grille is closed for renovations. According to the restaurant’s Facebook page, the restaurant will re-open sometime in October under new ownership. The Pourhouse opened in August of last year in the former Tailgater’s Steakhouse on the corner of Pricetown Rd. (Route 12) and Blandon Rd. (Route 73). An exact date for re-opening has not been announced.

Reading Liederkranz Oktoberfest named best in nation

The Reading Liderkranz Oktoberfest has been named the best Oktoberfest in the United States by USA Today’s 10best.com. The Liederkranz received the most reader votes of the 20 competing for the title. New Braunfels, Texas’ Wurstfest was runner-up followed by celebrations in La Crosse, Wisconsin; Cincinnati, Ohio; and New Ulm, Minnesota.

Francesca’s denied liquor license

Francesca’s Restaurant and Pizzeria, which is scheduled to open soon in the former Arner’s Restaurant on Howard Blvd., has been denied their application for a liquor license by Reading City Council. As reported in the official minutes from the September 28 meeting, Francesca’s was seeking to transfer a liquor license from Robesonia to the former Arner’s Restaurant on Howard Blvd. in Reading. According to the minutes, it was denied because of the “undue burden” that an additional liquor license would place on city police. The quota for the city is 29 licenses. Currently, there are 61 active licenses operating within the city limits.

Blind Hartman’s Tavern hosting Relay for Life fundraiser

Blind Hartman’s Tavern is hosting a fundraiser this Wednesday, October 7, to benefit the Relay for Life. During the Dining with a Cure event, Blind Hartman’s will donate 10% of all sales of food, non-alcoholic beverages and gift cards to the Exeter chapter of Relay for Life. A gift basket raffle will also be held with tickets being sold between 5 and 10 p.m.

Food News

Romano’s Chicago Style Pizza & Grill

romano-s-chicago-style-pizza-and-grill

October is National Pizza Month, and Berks County Eats is celebrating by visiting some of our area’s best pizzerias all month long.

Four years ago, I took my first trip to Chicago. It was a chance to enjoy another rich culinary scene, but more importantly, a chance to try some authentic deep dish pizza.

It’s a regional favorite that you just don’t find very often around here (we had an UNO Chicago Grill at one time, but that’s like saying we have authentic Tex-Mex food because we have a Moe’s Southwest Grill).

But a good deep dish pizza isn’t as hard to find as I thought. In fact, it’s the specialty of the house at Romano’s Chicago Style Pizza Grill.

Romano’s doesn’t have the best location in town. It sits on the corner of Lancaster Ave. and Grace St., south of the Bingaman St. Bridge, with no parking lot of its own. There are private parking lots all around it, but just a handful of spaces along the curb that are readily available for Romano’s customers.

On a rainy Tuesday night, that wasn’t a problem. We found a spot along Grace St. and rushed inside.

It was a slow night for Romano’s. Only the counter service area was lit up. The small dining room was shut down, the lights were out and the TV was turned off. But they fired everything back up for us so we had our own private dining area for the night.

romano-s-interior-2

The decor is simple, just a couple of pictures hanging on the walls and a flat-screen in the corner. We made ourselves at home at one of the half-dozen tables in the room while we waited.

At the front counter, there were a few tired looking slices waiting to be claimed, but we ordered a whole pie so we knew ours would be fresh but would take time (25 minutes). To tie us over until it arrived, we ordered a few garlic knots to share.

romano-s-garlic-knots

The garlic knots were also sitting on the counter in a big bowl, but we were less concerned with the way they would heat up than the pizza. They turned out pretty well — maybe just a little chewy — but the flavor was good, especially with the marinara dipping sauce.

We ordered light on the appetizer because we knew we had a daunting meal ahead of us in the form of a 14″ Chicago deep dish pizza.

It was quite a sight to behold, a true pie with a tall crust, a thick layer of cheese, a light layer of tomato sauce and a dusting of Parmesan on top.

romano-s-chicago-style-pizza

The pie was cut in six big slices. I grabbed my first slice and was surprised to find that I didn’t need a fork and knife. Instead, I was able to pick it up and eat it like any other pizza.

But this was not like any other pizza. The tomato sauce was sweeter; the cheese gooier. And the dusting of cheese on top added a nice saltiness to the dish and helped bring it all together.

When eating a more traditional pizza, I can usually force four slices if it’s good. This was great, but I could only manage two. It was too robust and filling to pack away any more. Julie struggled even more, making it through one-and-a-half slices before calling for a box.

We took what was left of our meal up to the front counter and had it packed up before moving on to the cash register to pay our bill. With two bottles of water thrown in, our bill was a little under $25, not a bad price considering the pizza could have comfortably fed four people.

Romano’s brought a fresh flavor to Reading when they opened for business in January. There are dozens of pizza places across the county, but only Romano’s is bringing the taste of Chicago to Berks County.

And it has certainly been a welcome addition.

BCE Rating
Food: Very Good
Service: Very Good
Ambiance: Fair
Price: Reasonable

Romano’s Chicago Style Pizza
501 Lancaster Ave
Reading, PA 19611

Romano's Chicago Style Pizza & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lunch & Dinner Pizzerias Reviews