I was on the hunt for regional, heritage hog meat and was rewarded in the Farm Store where I bought a brace of freshly butchered, locally-grown hog jowls. Hog jowl bacon will be forthcoming from my test kitchen.
Kentucky is a fine eating state, and I was determined to revisit some of my old favorites and, in one case, see if a local restaurant could pay down an old debt.
Papaleno’s scarred me.
When I was 13 years old my family, had ranged north from Corbin on an excursion and as suppertime approached, found ourselves in the parking lot of a battered old pizza restaurant that was full to the rafters with celebratory eaters. We were ready to party but the fete took a grim turn when I discovered every pizza that we ordered was smothered with bell peppers.
I muscled through the experience, ate a good dozen slices of pizza and summarily vowed to never allow green bells in my system again.
Decades fly by.Walking into the contemporary Papaleno’s, I sense that success has been found for the old pizza joint. The restaurant is now paneled in light wood and the decor suggests someone with input has previously visited the Hamptons.
I order a small pepperoni pizza, pay just north of $10 and make my way to my truck so I can get back on the interstate. The aroma cuts like a whip. I lose control around Mt Vernon and requisition a slice from the box.
If a patron only requests one topping on a pie it’s a good bet that that one topping is fairly treasured. There are six slice of pepperoni on this pizza. That’s scandalously low. I’m not expecting a seasoned charcutiere to be producing in-house pepperoni sausage at Papaleno but I would like a tidbit of pepperoni on each bite.
The crust is pleasingly thick and somewhat chewy with little char on the bottom to break up the hard-wheat dough. Sauce is noncommittal, plain and features little flavors other than canned tomatoes. Cheese coverage is light as well, there’s a paucity to the toppings at Papaleno’s that I find unappealing.
Did Papaleno’s redeem themselves lo these many years later? Somewhat. Their pie was passable and with a few adjustments could be greatly improved. As time has passed my fear of green bell peppers has faded, I’ve learned tricks of the chef trade that make them more bearable and my memories of that fateful night in Madison County when I was barely a teenager have largely vanished.108 Center St
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