The enthusiasm that Tom Joy has for his new business is contagious. Walking through the door of Park Ave Paninoteca, my friend and I were greeted like family — which makes sense because if you wander in on any given day, you'll see Joy's brother, sister, wife, or another member of the family helping out. Joy's father-in-law, Stefano Accordo, is a co-owner of the business, and the menu is sprinkled with his family recipes he brought with him when he moved to the U.S. from Sicily.
Joy's vision is a classic Italian deli with old family recipes from his father-in-law with some new twists, seen through the variety of panini that Joy has created. This is the first venture into the restaurant business for Joy and Accordo — Accordo still works at Kodak, and Joy was a bartender for years.
The seating area is tiny — only three high-top tables are available inside — however outdoor seating is available. The space itself is small, with a large deli case in the back and a giant chalkboard menu. A cooler contains a varied selection of San Pellegrino and sodas.
We decided to start with one of the panini. I'm a fan of olive tapenade, so my friend and I ordered the Roma ($8.25) which also included porchetta, salami, roasted red peppers, arugula, olive oil, and cacio di roma cheese.
Panini can often be hit or miss. The bread can sometimes be too saturated with butter or oil and become soggy, or it can be warmed just enough to get the grill marks on it, but you feel like you're eating a half-grilled sandwich. Thankfully, that was not my experience at Park Ave Paninoteca. The bread was crisp on the outside, not greasy at all, and nice and chewy on the inside. Joy said his favorite panino is the The Sicilian ($8.75), a savory combination of marinated eggplant, mushrooms, artichokes, salami, sundried tomatoes, provolone cheese, and spicy olive oil.
We also tried the Arancini ball ($2.50), a deep-fried rice ball with cheese and peas in the middle. The ball was served with the restaurant's homemade sauce on the side — truly the star of the show as my friend commented she would be content just eating the sauce with a spoon. The sauce is also used to make the Pasta al Forno ($6).
The Beef Braciole ($8) — thinly-sliced, grilled beef rolled around mozzarella and covered in bread crumbs — was served on a skewer and came with two sides. We chose the sautéed rappi and the caponata. Rappi is a dish made with rapini (or broccoli rabe) and seasoned with garlic, olive oil, and red pepper. Rapini has somewhat of a bitter taste to it but the seasoning cut the bitterness a bit. For someone that is not a huge eggplant fan, I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy the caponata, a cold salad dish featuring diced eggplant, olives, onions, and herbs.
Joy explained that menu items like the caponata, rappi and Beef Braciole are older Sicilian recipes that may be unique to find in Rochester. I recommend checking back to see what other tasty imports Joy and Accordo put on the menu.
The Park Ave Paninoteca is located at 266 Park Avenue and is open Monday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Food prices range from $1.75 to $9. For more information, Park Ave Paninoteca can be reached at 270-5601 and online at Facebook.com/PaninotecaRochester.
Living in the Rochester area, we have access to an impressive selection of craft beer, whether through a pub that serves it or a brewery that makes it. Each year the list of craft beer festivals grows longer. Here are just a few coming up in our area.
The Rochester Real Beer Expo is Saturday, June 14, on Gregory Street in the South Wedge neighborhood. The Expo is put on by the Business Association of the South Wedge Area (BASWA) and acts as a fundraiser for the multitude of community events and activities they host throughout the year. The event features live music, food from local restaurants like Swann's Market and The Beale, and an extensive showing of breweries from across the country. General admission tickets are $45 and are available at the Rochester Real Beer week website, rochesterrealbeer.com.
The Finger Lakes Brew Fest, hosted by the Geneva YMCA, takes place Saturday, June 21, at the Geneva Events Center on Seneca Lake. Over 20 craft breweries will be participating in the event. Pre-sale tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the Geneva YMCA (399 William Street, Geneva) or online at brownpapertickets.com/event/675366.
Nedloh Brewing Co. will host the first annual HopsfestNY on Saturday, August 9, and Sunday, August 10, at its brewery in West Bloomfield. Attendees will learn about brewing beer and growing hops in addition to sampling craft beers from Nedloh and other Upstate New York breweries. There will also be a food truck rodeo and a Big Green Egg Grill chef cook-off. Tickets are $30 for a daily pass and $50 for a special weekend pass and can be purchased at hopsfestNY.com.
The Flour City Brewers Fest will be held at the Rochester Public Market on August 22. The event features hundreds of craft beers, food from local vendors and live music. $35 presale tickets are available for purchase at flourcitybrewfest.com.
Mark your fall calendars for the 2014 Custom BrewCrafters Autumn Festival of Ales, taking place October 4 at the Fireman's Field in Honeoye Falls. Over 40 craft breweries take part in the event that draws over 2,500 people each year. Tickets will go on sale this summer so keep checking cbcraftbrewers.com for the latest.
Master Roaster Damian Serafine has opened Press Coffee Bar at 480 East Main Street. The café will offer varieties of its own roasted coffee, as well as Turkish and French press coffees. More information can be found at newyorkpresscoffee.com.
Founders Café has opened in the Academy Building on 13 Fitzhugh Street South. The café offers coffee, tea, and light lunch fare. Work downtown? The café delivers. Call 527-0006, or online at founderscaferochester.com.
Flour City Station will open on June 7 in the space formerly occupied by Easy on East and Milestones (170 East Avenue) and will feature live music and rotating art shows. It will also serve locally-sourced, seasonal food, and a rotating draft line. More information can be found at Facebook.com/Flourcitystation.
Mike's New York Diner (3423 Winton Place) has reopened. Call 475-1863 or find it at Facebook.com/pages/Mikes-New-York-Diner/228475372921.
Chow Hound is a food and restaurant news column. Do you have a tip? Send it to email@example.com.
This article was updated to correct the usage of panino/panini. Panini is the plural form of the word panino.